After exercise you may have stopped working, but your body hasn’t. Glycogen stores are replenished, and damaged muscle fibres begin to repair. Rest is when you actually become fitter and stronger, with your body working hard to adapt to the challenges placed upon it so it’s important to get post exercise nutrition right, possibly even more important than pre- or during exercise. If you give your body what it needs, when it needs it, it will be ready for the next workout or challenge sooner, if you don’t you could face feelings of fatigue and find yourself lacking in your next session.
When to refuel
There seems to be a short window of opportunity, within which your body’s capability to turn food into the muscles’ fuel, glycogen, is enhanced. Within the first 30 minutes post exercise, the enzymes responsible for this process are particularly active, up to one and a half times so, and remain fairly receptive for a further 90 minutes. But after two hours, this ability to store glycogen in the muscles drops by up to 66%.
What to take on
Most people that are asked this question will say “protein, protein and more protein” as this is what the body uses to help repair those aching muscles of yours, but that’s not all that’s needed, and it’s actually not the main element of exercise recovery.
Studies have found that a ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein is best for glycogen re-uptake, muscle repair, and also faster muscle growth. This magic ratio can also help to reduce the intensity of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Protein coupled with the carbohydrate, helps to increase the release of insulin, promoting the uptake of glycogen, and it also minimises protein breakdown.
How much to take on
Now this part depends on a few factors:
- How long your session was
- How hard you worked
- Your personal goals
60 minutes or less
|Peanut butter on toast gives a post-workout boost|
- 1-2 pieces of fresh fruit and a glass of milk or a yoghurt
- Tuna, cottage cheese or houmous with a bagel, wholemeal bread, pitta or a wrap
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Rice cakes with peanut butter and jam
- Bowl of cereal or muesli with milk
- Jacket potato with tuna, baked beans, cottage cheese or chilli
- Recovery shake (protein and carb formula)
|Chocolate milk is great for speedy recovery post exercise|
- Pasta with a tomato based sauce, prawns, chicken, feta or tuna
- Lasagne with salad
- Jacket potato or rice, grilled chicken or fish, veggies
- Bean or meat casserole with lots of vegetables, served with rice, couscous or wholemeal bread
- Chilli with rice and veg
- Fish pie and vegetables
- Home-made curry with lean protein and veg, served with rice
“I always feel a bit sick after a hard workout”
“What if I exercise before bed?”
“I’m trying to lose weight, how can I keep post exercise snacks to a minimum?”
- Bean, A., 2007. Food for Fitness. London, A&C Black Publishers Ltd. Pages 57-63.
- Palmer, A., 2010. Runner’s World Complete Guide to Nutrition. London, NatMag Rodale Ltd. Page 167.
- Karp, J.R., Johnston, J.D., Tecklenburg, S., Mickleborough, T.D., Fly, A.D., Stager, J.M., 2006. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, [online] Available at: http://oakbrooksc.com/docs/stager_chocmilk_study.pdf [Accessed 14th November 2012].
- Got Chocolate Milk?, 2012. What’s in it? [online] Available at: http://www.gotchocolatemilk.com/ [Accessed 14th November 2012].
- Niles, E.S., Lachowetz, T., Garfi, J., Sullivan, W., Smith, J.C., Leyh, B.P., Headley, S.A., 2001. Carbohydrate-protein drink improves time to exhaustion after recovery from endurance exercise, Journal of Exercise Physiology Online [online] Available at: http://faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/Niles1Col.PDF [Accessed 15th November 2012].