Nutrition Expert and Sports Dietitian Lorna Garden explains the importance of nutrition for post-training recovery.
Most athletes quickly establish what food and drinks they feel comfortable consuming before they train or compete. More often than not, however, what is eaten after exercise is not given the same amount of consideration.
Recent research suggests that the foods and fluids consumed immediately after exhaustive endurance exercise can have an important impact on how quickly the body recovers from that session. In particularly, meeting carbohydrate, protein and fluid needs is a priority.
Current thinking is that having around 0.2g to 0.4g per kilogram of body weight per hour (/kg/hr) of protein along with 0.8g/kg/hr of carbohydrate within around 15 to 30 minutes after exercise can help stimulate insulin release and, therefore, glycogen replenishment at an increased rate.
Having carbohydrate at this time may also help reduce stress hormone production, therefore having a positive effect on the immune system.
Protein, or more specifically amino acids – and in particular leucine – are essential in the immediate recovery period for the promotion of muscle protein synthesis, critical for muscle recovery and adaptation.
In practical terms, this means that a 60kg athlete will need to have around 20g of protein and 50g of carbohydrate soon after the completion of a training session. Examples of foods and fluids that meet these requirements include:
600ml flavoured low fat milk
2 tubs fruit yogurt
1 Sustagen Sport and a slice of bread with peanut butter
Tuna and salad roll, and a small fruit salad
Protein shake (providing 20g protein) and 600ml sports drink.
Remember, these amounts are for athletes completing exhaustive exercise lasting longer than 60 minutes. Lighter sessions will require smaller amounts of food for recovery.
Equally important is replacing fluid losses that have occurred, as quickly as possible. A sports drink (carbohydrate/electrolyte drink) can be useful when large amounts of fluid have been lost, otherwise water should be your drink of choice.
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Disclaimer: This article provides general advice only. Readers should seek independent professional advice from their general practitioner or dietitian in relation to their own individual circumstances or condition before making any decisions based on the information in this article.