The Three R’s of Recovery: Rehydrate, Refuel, and Repair
As a distance running coach and sports nutritionist, my athletes often as me what should they eat after their workout. Before I answer this question, I have to ask how long and how intense was their workout. Strenuous training sessions involving one or more workouts within a 24- hour period requires optimal recovery to be able to continue to train daily.
Eating a recovery snack or meal 30-60 minutes after training or competition can help start the recovery process to restore and refuel your body. If you are doing a light training session, recovery snacks are not necessary, but it is still important to fuel properly throughout the day so you can train hard the next day.
Practice the Three R’s
Assuming you are well hydrated before and during your training session, rehydrate after with fluids and electrolytes depending on your sweat loss in training. Most athletes need to drink at least 24 ounces of fluid after exercise, but some athletes are heavy sweaters and require additional fluid based on how much weight they lost in sweat. Weigh yourself before and after exercise to determine your sweat rate- after exercise drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost through sweat.
Muscle and liver glycogen stores can become depleted after training continuously for 90 minutes or after intense workouts less than an hour. To completely replace muscle glycogen stores, eat approximately 0.5 grams of carbohydrate (carb) for every pound of body weight, especially if you have another training session less than 8-hours apart. Eating carb plus protein within 30 minutes after training can reduce inflammation, boost immunity and restore glycogen stores.
Muscle tissue repair can be enhanced by eating protein-rich foods after training sessions. Eating 15-25 grams of high-quality protein after training and at each meal throughout the day continues to help with muscle recovery and to rebuild muscle. Choosing foods first rather than relying on protein powders is the best approach to muscle recovery. Eat foods rich in the amino acid, leucine, at your recovery snack and at each meal to aid with muscle growth.
Recovery Snack Ideas:
• 1 cup Greek or Icelandic yogurt + 1 cup berries
• 2 ounces cheese + crackers
• Egg sandwich (2 eggs) on whole wheat toast
• Turkey sandwich
• Homemade trail mix- ¼ cup nuts, 1 ounce dried chickpeas, ½ cup dried cereal, 2 T raisins
• 2 T nut butter + large apple
• 16 ounces chocolate milk
• Protein smoothie- 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup frozen fruit, ½ cup milk or non-dairy alternative, 1 T chia seeds
Plan ahead your recovery snack or meal before your training session to optimally rehydrate, restore muscle glycogen, repair and rebuild your muscles so you can to continue to improve as an athlete.