Refuel, rehydrate, recover

The post-workout recovery phase is just as important as the workout itself. Refueling with the right nutrients can help your body repair damaged muscles, build more muscle, and replace nutrients lost during exercise to prepare you for your next workout or mission. Here are some guidelines:

  • When? Eat within 2 hours after exercise lasting one hour or more.
  • What? A combination of protein and carbs is the key to recovery. Foods containing at least 50 grams carbs and 15–30 grams protein are optimal recovery fuel. A mix of quick-digesting carbs (fast carbs) and slower-digesting, higher-fiber carbs (slow carbs) is best. It’s also important to drink enough fluids for rehydration: 16 fl oz water or sports drink for every lb lost during exercise or hydrate until urine is pale yellow.
  • Where? Post-workout recovery foods are readily available at home, convenience stores, and even fast-food restaurants. No special food or prep is required.
  • Why? Exercise can use up your body’s stores of glycogen, electrolytes, and fluids, so you need to refuel to prepare for the next challenge.

Try these recovery options:

  • Tuna with wheat crackers and an apple
  • Oatmeal with low-fat milk and almonds
  • Low-fat chocolate milk and an apple with a slice of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter and banana on whole-wheat bread
  • Burrito with refried beans, cheese, and salsa
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt with granola and berries
  • Stir-fried tofu and veggies with brown rice
  • Turkey and cheese sub (6")
  • Scrambled eggs on whole-wheat English muffin and 1 small box of raisins

A final note: If you plan to have a meal within 2 hours of exercise, skip the post-workout snack. Otherwise, you might be eating too many calories, which would spoil all your hard work.

References

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, & American College of Sports Medicine. (2016). Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(3), 543–568. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000852

Headquarters Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. (2017). Army Regulation 40–25 OPNAVINST 10110.1/MCO 10110.49 AFI 44–141: Nutrition and menu standards for human performance optimization. Washington, DC Retrieved from https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/AR40-25_WEB_Final.pdf.

Karpinski, C., & Rosenbloom, C. A. (2017). Sports Nutrition: A Handbook for Professionals, Sixth Edition. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.