Sports nutrition experts agree that what you do after a workout is just as important as what you do during a workout. Proper recovery nutrition is the key to realizing your goals and reaping the benefits from your workout. Replenishing and refueling supports muscle growth and repair, helps to decrease core temperature, replaces muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen), rehydrates and will help you take your performance to the next level. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about recovery.
Why do I need to eat after a workout?
After you workout, your insulin levels are low, stress hormones are elevated, muscle and liver glycogen has gone down, muscle breakdown is increased, and fuel and fluid levels are likely depleted. Left unattended, this post-exercise environment can lead to increased muscle soreness, extended fatigue and low energy. In order to avoid these consequences and enhance performance, recovery nutrition is a priority.
By eating after your workout, you can turn the body’s post-exercise responses into gains.
Increases blood insulin
Lowers stress hormone levels
Restores muscle and liver glycogen
Slows muscle breakdown and promotes protein synthesis
Refuels and rehydrates
When should I eat and drink for recovery?
Your body is ready to recover and replenish glycogen stores immediately after you exercise. Don’t miss this window of opportunity – try to eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout (15-30 grams of protein and 40-60 grams of carbohydrate) and again in 2 to 3 hours to maximize glycogen replacement.
What should I eat?
For both endurance and strength workouts, carbohydrates and protein are the macronutrients you need and fluid will help you rehydrate:
Carbohydrates: 0.5-1.0 grams/kilogram body weight carbohydrate*
Protein: 20-25 grams protein
Fluid/water should be replaced at 2 to 3 cups per every pound of body weight lost during exercise (measure your body weight pre-exercise for comparison)
*Body weight LB / 2.2 X 0.5 = grams of carbohydrates; body weight LB / 2.2 X 1.0 = grams of carbohydrates
Examples of 25-30 grams of carbs
1 cup juice or 1 large piece of fruit
1 small bagel or 2 slices of bread
2 cups of milk
1 cup of rice or corn
2 cups of sports drink
1 packet energy gel
EAS® Myoplex Original and Lite Powder and Ready-to-Drink and varieties of Myoplex Bars
Examples of 20-25 grams of protein
3 eggs, 6 egg whites
2 cups of milk
¾ cup of cottage cheese
3 cups of yogurt
3 oz. chicken, fish, pork or beef
3 oz. of cheese (except cream cheese)
6 T. peanut butter
24 oz. soy milk
Protein drinks and powders (typically 10-45 g/serving)
A Registered Dietitian or a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics can assess your unique needs and provide you with personalized guidance.
American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the
American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:509-527.
American Dietetic Association. Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (4th ed.). 2006.