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Post-Exercise Snacking

by ADMIN on NOVEMBER 9, 2011


So you just finished your workout and you're starving… what should you eat?!


If you’re an avid daily (or bi-daily!) exerciser, providing your body with nutrients to recover is very important. This will help your body replenish glycogen stores (carbohydrates your body stores to use during exercise), repair and rebuild muscle, and help rehydrate.


Your body is working its hardest and fastest to replenish glycogen stores within 30 to 45 minutes after you finish a workout. During this time, it’s best to have a carbohydrate-rich snack with a smidge of protein. Protein actually helps your body store glycogen more efficiently.


For endurance athletes, this 3:1 or 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio is ideal. (source)


Good Carbohydrate-Protein Combo Snacks:

  • Low fat or fat free chocolate milk

  • A bowl of corn flakes with fat free or low fat milk

  • 8 oz orange juice and half a bagel

  • Low fat or fat free yogurt with a piece of fruit

  • A couple slices of turkey with a slice of whole grain bread

  • Low fat cottage cheese and fruit

  • Cheese and crackers

  • Pretzels and a bit of peanut butter

  • Commercial Recovery drink with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein


We don't care as much about nutrition quality during the immediate post-workout refueling snack because we're looking for speed of glycogen recovery. Simple carbs will be digested quicker and get into the muscle faster during that important post-workout window.


Once you're out of that window, revert to whole grains and less processed foods.


How much recovery fuel do you need?


This ultimately depends on how long you worked out and the intensity of the session. Your body needs about 1 - 1.2 grams of carbs per kg of weight per hour of exercise performed (g/kg/hr).


For an hour-long workout, that might look like these amounts:

  • Women: 150 – 200 calories

  • Men: 300 – 400 calories


What about after strength training?

If you’re trying to build muscle, recovery fuel is also an important aspect of your diet. Keeping you in the anabolic - or muscle-building) zone means taking in more calories than your body needs for maintenance. For this reason, you certainly do not want to skip this ideal opportunity to refuel!


Recovery needs differ slightly after strength. Your goal is to consume mostly, if not purely, protein. This will help maximize your muscle adaptations.(Source)


Do you always have to have a post-workout snack?


Refueling right away speeds recovery and helps prepare your body for your next workout or competition. This is especially important when you're working out again on the same day or within 24 hours.


However, if your next exercise or training session is more than 24 hours away, you don’t necessarily need to worry about eating within 30 minutes. Your body will be able to slowly and naturally build back up your glycogen stores over the next 24+ hours so that you’re ready to go!


One last benefit of a post-workout snack:

If your next full meal is more than an hour away but you aren't working out until the next day (ie: no immediate need for a recovery snack), think about grabbing a piece of fruit, yogurt, or cheese after your workout.


This will help prevent you from getting too hungry before your next meal, which in turn helps to prevent overeating. Score!

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