Part one (below) will discuss the importance and purpose of appropriate recovery nutrition, whilst part two will cover what you should eat after a workout and will provide several examples of post-workout meals/snacks.
- help prevent fatigue so you can work out even harder next time (Alghannam et al 2014)
- assist with muscle repair (Beelen et al 2010 and Slater & Phillips 2010) to promote retention of lean body mass
- help you maintain a healthy immune system which can be compromised by intense workout sessions (Gleeson 2002).
During exercise (especially resistance training), the body shifts towards a catabolic state (muscle breakdown) which then transitions back to an anabolic state (muscle building) within the first few hours of completing your workout (Aragon & Schoenfeld 2013).
The first hour following exercise is also when the rate of glycogen synthesis is the highest (Poole et al 2010).
It is therefore important to utilise this ‘window of opportunity’ (the first 60-90 minutes after your workout) by following your training session with appropriate nutrition, providing adequate amounts of protein and carbohydrates to:
- replenish glycogen stores (these are the carbohydrate stores in your liver and muscle cells – a bit like a battery that needs recharging between exercise sessions)
- promote muscle repair and synthesis
It is also important to replace fluids and electrolytes lost via sweat.
Water is best unless you have just engaged in an intense or prolonged training session (Kenefick & Cheuvront 2012) in which case you could consider a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade. But remember, electrolyte drinks will contribute to your carbohydrate and overall energy intake for the day!
Milk is also a good choice as it counts towards your fluid intake, contains quality protein and carbohydrates to assist with the recovery process and also has a similar electrolyte profile to that of a typical sports drink (Desbrow et al 2014 and Shirreffs et al 2007).
Alghannam et al (2014), ‘Exploring mechanisms of fatigue during repeated exercise and the dose dependent effects of carbohydrate and protein ingestion: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial’, Trials, 15(1): 95.
Aragon & Schoenfeld (2013), ‘Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?’, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition’, 10(1): 5.
Beelen et al (2010), ‘Nutritional strategies to promote postexercise recovery’, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20(6): 515-532.
Desbrow et al (2014), ‘Comparing the rehydration potential of different milk-based drinks to a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage’, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism’, 39(12): 1366-1372.
Gleeson (2002), ‘Biochemical and immunological markers of over-training’, Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 1(2): 31-41.
Kenefick & Cheuvront (2012), ‘Hydration for recreational sport and physical activity’, Nutrition Reviews, 70(S2): S137-S142.
Phillips et al (1997), ‘Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans’, The American Journal of Physiology, 273(1): E99-107.
Poole et al (2010), ‘The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis’, Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 9(3): 354-363.
Sherreffs et al (2007), ‘Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink, ‘The British Journal of Nutrition, 98(1): 173-180.
Slater & Phillips (2010), ‘Nutrition guidelines for strength sports: Sprinting, weightlifting, throwing events, and bodybuilding’, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(S1): S67-S77.