What to eat after training
The aim of post-workout nutrition is to promote recovery between training sessions and optimise training results. Your post-run nosh should:
1. Refuel the muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate) stores
The main dietary factor in post-workout refuelling is the amount of carbohydrate consumed. The amount you require will depend on the fuel cost of the workout and the timing of your next session. If an intense workout is planned within the next 24 hours, consuming carbohydrate within the first hour of finishing is ideal for replacing glycogen stores. The meal or snack should provide 1-1.2g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight.
The table below includes meals or snacks that provide 50g of carbohydrate.
Carbohydrate-rich recovery snacks (50g carbohydrate)
• 700-800ml sports drink
• 2 slices toast/bread with jam or honey or banana topping
• 2 cereal bars
• 2 large bananas
• 1 cup thick vegetable soup and large bread roll
• 1 large fruit bun or scone
• 100g pancakes (2 stack) + 30g syrup
If your goal is weight loss, you can still aim to refuel glycogen stores before your next session. However, it’s important that the post-workout meal is considered as part of your overall energy budget. You may wish to plan for one of your main meals or snacks to be consumed straight after your workout. This meal should provide a nutritious carbohydrate source along with other nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.
2. Rehydrate by replacing the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
After training, replacing water and electrolyte losses is important for optimal recovery. You continue to lose fluid through sweat and urine even after finishing your session, so you should aim to replace losses by 150 per cent. If you are 1kg lighter after your workout, you need to drink 1.5 litres of water over the next two to six hours. Include a source of sodium to replace lost electrolytes and help the body rehydrate more effectively. Sports drinks, milk, soup and pretzels are sodium sources that can help with rehydration.
3. Repair muscle tissue and promote muscle adaptation
Long training sessions result in the breakdown of muscle tissue. Taking in protein after a workout provides the amino acid building blocks needed to repair muscle fibres and promote the development of new muscle tissue. Although protein requirements vary between individuals, consuming 20-25g of protein within an hour after exercise can help the muscle rebuilding and repair process.
The table below provides a list of carbohydrate rich snacks that also provide a protein source.
Nutritious carbohydrate and protein recovery snacks
• 1 bread roll with cheese/meat filling + large banana
• 300g fruit salad with 200g flavoured yoghurt
• 300g creamed rice
• 250-300ml milk shake or fruit smoothie
• 600ml low fat flavoured milk
• 1 large bowl (2 cups) breakfast cereal with milk
• 2 small cereal bars + 200g flavoured yoghurt
• 220g baked beans on 2 slices of toast
• 2 crumpets with thick spread peanut butter + 250ml glass of milk
• 300g (large) baked potato + cottage cheese filling + glass of milk
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