Eat to Recover - Understanding Post-Exercise Nutrition
There are many products on the market for post-exercise nutrition to help the body recover. This article is to help narrow your search and eliminate discrepancies. During and after exercise the body is in a heightened state and burns more calories than resting state. This means after a strenuous workout, the body has to be "re-fueled" in a sense. The combination of glycogen (carbohydrates), protein, water, and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) is what the body needs for a quick recovery. Also, in small amounts glucose (sugar) is helpful because it is quickly broken down to be used as immediate fuel or stored as muscle glycogen.
What is Post-Workout Nutrition?
Post-exercise nutrition is the intake of a supplement, food or drink after exercise to help improve rate of recovery after a strenuous workout. Post-exercise nutrition can help decrease muscle soreness by supplying essential components for muscle repair and replenish muscle glycogen (fuel for the body) lost from exercise.
What Food Has All the Components Needed for Optimal Recovery?
Chocolate milk! 1% milk mixed with chocolate powder has shown good results while also very inexpensive. However, there are other products on the market with the same ingredients and results.
Why is Recovery Time Important?
Muscle recovery is key for maintaining an effective exercise program. During increased physical activity, the body must be provided with the essential fuels and supporting nutrients to support our muscles during a workout, and assist in speeding and enhancing the muscle recovery process. The faster and more effectively you can recover, the better you can perform during your next workout. Recovery drinks are far from a miracle drink and may not completely recover you after a hard workout. However, if integrated carefully into a well-designed nutrition and exercise program, it will aid in improvement and give you an edge to recovery. You must recognize that small positive changes, stacked upon each other, over time, lead to large improvements.
What Should Your Post-Exercise Nutrition Be and How Should I Measure It?
Studies have shown that drinking a liquid is better than eating solid food. Liquid is digested faster and typically has a high water content to help replenish fluid lost from sweat. Also, liquid is usually easier to stomach after a hard workout. A post recovery drink should contain approximately twice as many carbohydrates as protein, a 2:1 ratio. Each body is different but this formula can use as a guideline to follow for a recovery drink. Essentially for every kilogram of body weight, there should be 0.4 grams of carbohydrate and 0.2 grams of protein. For example: a 180lb basketball player ~82 kg; 82 kg x 0.4g/kg = 32.7 grams of carbohydrate. 82 kg x 0.2 g/kg = 16.4 grams of protein. This is an only an approximation; however general guidelines estimates 20 grams of protein is sufficient.
How Long After Exercise Should I Have This Drink?
There is a small window of opportunity for better results of post-exercise nutrition. Immediately after an intense workout, when glycogen stores are depleted, production of the enzymes that convert glucose into glycogen is increased offering an ideal opportunity to replenish fuel supply. The enzyme levels only remain elevated for about 30-45 minutes, allowing an opportunity to consume sugar (glucose) for muscles to use as fuel. Also this is the same time frame for optimal protein synthesis for muscle repair.
If done properly post exercise nutrition can improve recovery time and allow the body to perform better the next training session!
By Kevin Devine
Athletic Development Coach, Sports Medicine Institute