It is not possible to consume enough carbohydrate during moderate- to high-intensity exercise to replace what is burned, nor to completely offset muscle protein degradation. So it is important to consume additional carbohydrate and protein after the workout.
This should be done as soon as possible, because the body is able to synthesize glycogen and protein at more than twice the normal rate due to heightened insulin receptivity in the muscle cells following exercise. For this reason, exercise physiologists sometimes refer to the first two hours post-exercise as "the muscle recovery window."
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Carbohydrate-protein sports drinks are again the best immediate post-workout nutrition source because of their rapid absorption and their water and electrolyte content. Using such drinks and/or water and solid foods, athletes should be sure to fully replenish fluid losses (i.e. return to pre-workout body weight) and consume 10 to 20 percent of their daily carbohydrate and protein intake within the first two hours after completing exercise.
In addition to consuming appropriate amounts of carbohydrate and protein before, during, and immediately after workouts, athletes can reduce muscle damage and soreness by maintaining a diet that is generally high in antioxidants.
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Oxygen radicals are believed to play a role in the cellular damage that follows the rupture of muscle fibers during exercise. By consuming plenty of antioxidant vitamins and enzymes on a daily basis, athletes can limit this damage. Vitamins C and E appear to be the most effective antioxidant defenders against free radical damage to muscle tissues. Citrus fruits, melon, and berries are good sources of vitamin C. Vegetable oils, nuts, dark green vegetables and whole grains are rich in vitamin E.
The Bottom Line
While muscle tissue damage and muscle soreness are normal effects of hard training, proper sports nutrition practices can minimize these effects. If you are consistent in these practices you will recover more quickly between workouts and competitions and perform better during them. Not to mention, you won't wake up in the morning feeling as though you had been caned in your sleep.
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