The food and fluid that you consume after exercise impacts the recovery that takes place in your body and sets you up for the following exercise session.
A quick snack or meal of either straight carbohydrate or mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat should be consumed within an hour of the end of exercise. This will start the recovery process within the body. If there are multiple exercise sessions/games/races in a day, it is more important that this food follows the end of exercise immediately. This food serves to replenish glycogen stores in the body (where your body gets its energy). A more complex and filling meal 1-2 hours following exercise will add to this replenishment and help build up stores for the next session of exercise. A good choice is a glass of chocolate milk, a piece of fruit, sports bar, breakfast bar, etc immediately following exercise and then a full and proper meal 1-2 hours following exercise. On average, it takes 20 hours to completely resynthesize the glycogen in muscles, so regular daily consumption of carbohydrates (6-10g/kg body weight in a 24hr period) is necessary to ensure stores are replenished fully.
Protein intake following exercise serves to help rebuild muscles. Amounts of 8-10gm of protein following exercise are beneficial. This need not be consumed immediately following exercise, but should be consumed within the 1-2hr window following the conclusion of exercise.
Fluid replacement is also paramount. As was discussed in the last blog post, fluid lost during exercise needs to be replaced prior to the next exercise session. It is ideal to weigh yourself prior to and following exercise to know how much fluid was lost. Every pound of weight lost during the session corresponds to 0.5L of fluid lost. This must be replaced.
As always, personal preferences for food and fluid is important, but the timing and composition of post-workout meals need to be followed. Often athletes will feel tired and want to sleep, or need to run off to class or work. It is important that athletes are educated as to the importance of rehydrating and refueling their bodies both to rebuild their bodies from the exercise they have done and refuel it for the next session.
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THP The Healing Path