Recovery Nutrition Guidelines After Hard Exercise

Calories

If you are tired, time-crunched and without a nutrition recovery plan, you might have trouble consuming enough calories (as well as carbs) and fail to replace depleted glycogen stores. A simple solution is to quench your thirst (and abate your hunger) by drinking less water and more cranberry, grape or any other appealing fruit juice. Juices provide the fluid you need, as well as carbs and calories.

More: Why Athletes Should Count Calories

If you are trying to lose weight by restricting calories, your best bet is to fuel adequately by day to ensure strong workouts. Then, have a lighter dinner and fewer evening snacks. Do not try to restrict by day and exercise on empty; you'll have poor workouts.

Carbohydrates

To replenish depleted blood sugar and muscle glycogen stores and recover from the demands of strenuous exercise, your should plan to consume carbohydrates as soon as tolerable, preferably within 30 minutes post-exercise. Muscles rely on carbs for fuel, so think again if you are on an Atkins-type low-carb diet.

More: Are You Eating Enough Carbs?

Athletes who weigh 100 to 200 pounds need 75 to 150 grams (300 to 600 calories) of carbohydrates repeatedly every two hours, for six hours. The trick is to plan ahead and have the right foods and fluids readily available for frequent snacking. Otherwise, you may neglect your recovery diet by mindlessly eating nothing--or whatever is around: doughnuts, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, chips, and other high-fat choices that fail to refuel your muscles.

If you have trouble tolerating solid food after working out, experiment with liquid recovery foods, such as Instant Breakfast, Boost, chocolate milk or fruit smoothies--excellent sources of carbs and fluids, as well as a little protein.

More: How Much Protein During a Workout?

Protein

Consuming some protein along with the carbs stimulates faster glycogen replacement. The protein also optimizes muscular repair and growth. Yes, you can buy commercial recovery foods, but you can just as easily and appropriately enjoy cereal with milk, fruit yogurt, bagel with a little peanut butter or any other sports snacks that offer a foundation of carbs with an accompaniment of protein (i.e., 40 grams carbs, 10 grams protein).

Fluids

If you've become very dehydrated (as indicated by scanty, dark urine), you may need 24 to 48 hours to totally replace this loss. Because thirst poorly indicates whether or not you've had enough to drink, throughout the day sip on enjoyable (non-alcoholic) beverages until your urine is pale yellow (like lemonade), not concentrated, dark (like beer).

More: 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes

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