Why is recovery so important? High intensity and/or long workouts (>60-90 minutes) tap into your glycogen (energy) stores, damage muscle tissue, and stimulate muscles to adapt, while recovery through adequate rest and nutrition facilitates muscle recovery and growth, decreases risk of injury and illness, and prepares your body to crush your next workout.
Nutritionally, the recovery process involves consuming carbs for glycogen re-stocking, protein for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, and fluids and electrolytes lost to sweat for rehydration. Protein often gets the most attention where recovery is concerned, and that’s because athletes need more per day than healthy sedentary people – anywhere from 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight depending on how active you are, compared to 0.8 to 1.0 g/kg, respectively.
Research supports eating 15-20 grams of protein along with carbs within 30-60 minutes after exercise to increase muscle protein synthesis and optimize reloading of glycogen stores. Refueling with carbs and protein during this window of time is ideal because your muscles convert carbs into stored energy much faster than usual, and protein stimulates this process. If you are unable to refuel within this window, however, do not fret; recovery continues past the one-hour mark! Just make sure to include protein in your meals and snacks throughout the day.
Not sure which foods are rich in protein? Here are some examples:
3 oz chicken breast = 24g pro
3 oz wild salmon = 23g pro
3 oz tofu = 12g pro
1⁄2 cup edamame = 9 g pro
1 cup beans/lentils= 15-18g pro
1 oz (1 slice) cheese = 8g pro
3 whole eggs = 18g pro
1⁄2 cup cottage cheese = 14g pro
8oz Greek yogurt = 22g pro
2 Tbsp peanut butter = 8g pro
1oz (23) almonds = 6g pro
1⁄2 cup cooked quinoa = 4g pro
3 Tbsp hemp seeds = 10g pro
Tips for fueling after exercise:
Aim to eat a balanced meal or snack instead of more processed recovery products, if able. Some ideas: Turkey avocado sandwich with side salad; Veggie omelet with a small sweet potato; Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts; Whole wheat toast with peanut butter, or with eggs and avocado; wild salmon (or other protein) with quinoa (or other starch) and veggies.
It’s common to have a reduced appetite immediately after a hard or long workout. If you’re not hungry, have a light snack or something drinkable, such as a smoothie made with yogurt and fruit. Refuel with a balanced meal as soon as able.
Try prepping your post-workout meal or snack in advance if you are on the go or don’t have time to make it when you finish.
As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or would like to schedule an individualized nutrition consultation.