The 3 R’s of Recovery Nutrition
Recovery nutrition is a crucial component to an athlete’s success. To continue to train at your best, reduce risk of injury, prevent illness and build muscle, athlete’s need to pay attention to what is consumed after a workout. When you train multiple times a day, take advantage of the 30 minute “window of opportunity” after a workout. Your muscles are most primed to take in those nutrients so plan to eat or drink something then.
Muscle is the most adaptable tissue in the body. When we exercise, muscle is broken down and damaged. After a workout, our muscles need the right nutrients (protein) to repair itself, grow stronger, and adapt to training. Carbohydrates are necessary for refueling our muscles with energy (also known as glycogen). If you are training more than once a day, consuming a recovery snack or meal ASAP post workout will provide the most benefit.
There are 3 main goals of recovery nutrition or the 3 “R’s.” These include:
After a workout, practice or game, start replacing your fluids loses right away since dehydration can lead to decreased performance, low concentration and more. Aim to replace 1.5x the amount that has been lost during exercise. For example, if you lost 1kg (2.2lbs) during exercise, you will want to drink 1.5 L within a few hours after you finish. 1kg of body weight is equal to 1 L of water. This doesn’t just have to come from water, other fluids like milk, chocolate milk, or sports drinks can also count. These will provide carbohydrates and electrolytes too.
After an intense workout, you have used up some (or all) of your glycogen (stored carbohydrates in your muscles). This provides energy to your working muscles and your brain during exercise. Eating carbohydrates after a workout begins the process of replacing those stores so that you can begin your next practice or game with enough energy. If you don’t do this, you may feel more tired and have decreased performance.
You need to consume protein after a workout to switch off the process of muscle damage and breakdown that occurs during exercise. High quality sources of protein (those that include all the essential amino acids) will provide all the building blocks your muscles need and be more readily absorbed. This includes whey protein, meat and seafood, Greek yogurt, eggs and more.
What to eat after a workout:
The number of grams of protein and carbohydrates to consume after a workout to recover depends on a number of factors including you body weight, intensity of the exercise, type of sport, level of conditioning, the environment, age and your overall nutrition needs and goals. The ratio for an endurance type of exercise is about 4:1 grams of carbohydrates to protein and for strength about 2:1. For example, a post workout snack after a tough running workout would be about 60g of carbohydrates and 15 g of protein.
Have a plan
Keep portable snacks in your gym bag or car so that you can have something on hand to eat ASAP after a workout (within 30 minutes). Some examples of portable snacks include:
- 1 scoop of whey protein made into a smoothie with fruit, milk and spinach.
- Greek yogurt + frozen fruit (Add Greek yogurt to a Tupperware container and top with frozen fruit. This will keep everything cold but will thaw by the time you eat it)
- Peanut butter and Jam sandwich
- Chocolate milk and banana
- Trail mix with pretzels, nuts and dried fruit
- Cheese strings and an orange
- Wrap with turkey deli meat and veggies
Andrea Docherty is a Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist. She owns a private practice called Andrea Docherty Nutrition in Windsor, ON. For more information, visit her website at www.andreadochertyrd.com