Hopefully you have been waiting with baited breath for the third and final installment of this series – and here it is! Now that you know how to fuel before and during exercise, the only thing left to learn is what to do afterwards. Regardless of your workout length and intensity, your muscles need hydration and fuel to recover. The good news for the “everyday exerciser” (meaning you workout for an hour or so three or four times a week) is that you don’t have to stress much about post-exercise fuel. Your regular diet will typically provide enough nutrients to refuel your muscles with glycogen and repair muscle damage.
If you are doing lengthy and intense workouts, aim to eat within 45 minutes after exercise. Eating within this time frame will ensure the best refueling to replenish muscle glycogen stores and repair and build muscles. To accomplish this, consume some carbohydrate food with a little bit of lean protein. Some examples of carbohydrate/protein combinations are:
• Low fat/light yogurt with fruit
• Turkey or lean roast beef sandwich
• Banana with peanut butter
• Cereal with fat-free milk
• Crackers with low-fat cheese
• Smoothie made with fruit and milk or yogurt
• Chocolate milk (low-fat)
According to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, for athletes doing multiple exercise sessions in a day, aim to consume 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight every hour post-exercise. This amount of carbohydrate should be consumed in 30 minute intervals for 4–5 hours after exercise, or until the next meal is eaten.
It is critical that you drink enough to replace any water lost through sweat during exercise. To determine how much weight you typically lose during exercise, weigh yourself before and afterwards. If you are hydrating well during exercise, the water loss should be minimized, but always make rehydrating a priority. Water is usually adequate for rehydration, as post-exercise snacks and meals should sufficiently replace electrolyte losses. Foods that can be eaten after a workout to replace potassium losses are: yogurt, banana, orange juice, raisins, and potato. High sodium foods that can replace sodium losses include: pretzels, cheese, ramen noodles, soups, bread, and salt.
If you are an athlete, I recommend consulting a sports nutritionist or reading Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook for more specific information and formulas.
Remember that fueling properly before, during, and after exercise will help to improve your performance, increase your energy level, repair muscles, and speed your recovery time!