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Focus On Post Workout Nutrition

Caroline Kavanagh | December 21, 2022

Recovery is the body's process of adapting to the previous workload and strengthening itself for the next physical challenge. Nutritional components of recovery include fluids and electrolytes to rehydrate, carbohydrates to replenish depleted fuel stores and protein to help repair damaged muscle and develop new muscle tissue.

A simple way to remember these basics of recovery nutrition are the 3 R's: 1) Rehydrate 2) Refuel 3) Repair

A full, rapid recovery supplies more energy and hydration for the next workout or event, which can improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Rapid recovery is especially important during periods of heavy training and anytime two or more training sessions happen within 12 hours.

Typically, after intense exercise, most athletes find eating a big meal challenging. This is understandable, as the exercise stress can create a situation where the hunger centers are halted. Fortunately liquid supplementation is palatable, easy to consume, can be nutrient dense and provide all the nutrition and rehydration needed at this time. Because these formulas can be structurally simple, the gastrointestinal tract typically has no difficulty processing them.


All forms of exercise use carbohydrates for energy, therefore a post-training meal that includes carbohydrates will restore muscle carbohydrate/energy stores.

The type, duration and intensity of your session will determine the carbohydrate amount. The goal being to consume enough carbohydrate to promote an insulin release. Insulin is the hormone responsible for shuttling carbohydrates and amino acids into the muscle. In doing this, carbohydrate re-synthesis is accelerated and protein balance becomes positive, leading to repair of the muscle tissue.

Consuming a large amount of carbohydrates, will promote a larger insulin release, increase glycogen storage, and increase protein repair. However, unless you've had a very long, intense workout, excess carbohydrate can be converted to body fat. Each athlete has different goals and focus, therefore individual amounts will vary.

Protein After exercise, the body decreases its rate of protein synthesis and increases its rate of protein breakdown. Protein and amino acid solutions have been shown to reverse this trend, increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown. The addition of protein to your post exercise meal helps rebuild the structural aspects of the muscle fibers that get damaged and stimulates the development of new muscle tissue.

Fat While your post-workout feeding should be rich in proteins and carbohydrates, this meal can be low in fat or fat free. The consumption of essential fats is one of the most overlooked areas of daily nutritional intake but during the post workout period, eating fat can decrease the effectiveness of your post-workout beverage. Since fat slows down transit through the stomach, eating fat during the post workout period may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and proteins. SUMMARY During the post exercise period, specific nutrients can maximize recovery. These include an abundance of water, high-glycemic index carbohydrates and amino acids. It's also best to limit fat at this time. Smoothies or "Ready To Drink" (RTD) formulas can hit the mark! Fast digesting protein (whey hydrolysates and isolates) and carbohydrates (dextrose and maltodextrin) are absorbed more quickly than whole food meals. A liquid post-exercise formula may be fully absorbed within 30 to 60 minutes, providing muscle nourishment in this time frame. A slower digesting solid food meal may take 2 to 3 hours to fully reach the muscle.

While these recommendations are a good starting point, there are no absolute sports nutrition rules that satisfy every athlete's requirements. Pay attention to how you feel during exercise and how diet is affecting your performance and recovery.

You may have to use different timing and alternate routines to create a nutrition and exercise combination that works best for your unique goals. Optimizing your plan can make all the difference!

InsideOut Human Performance - nutrition:


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