Importance of Post-Workout Nutrition & Recovery
Nutrition was recognized as an important component related to exercise and sports in the 1960’s. Since then it has evolved tremendously and many advances have been made related to the nutrition practices of athletes. Both recreational and competitive athletes can benefit from improvements in their diet, specifically the food that they eat before and after training or competition. Since high volume or high intensity training (i.e. CrossFit) stresses the body, proper nutrition and fluids are needed for recovery. If neglected, performance will suffer (1).
Recovery begins immediately after exercise ends. Two nutrients, protein and carbohydrates, play a vital role in this process and deserve special attention. Both should be eaten immediately following exercise, ideally in combination for better absorption and utilization by the body (1).
Studies have shown that a 2-hour delay in carbohydrate consumption following a workout can substantially delay the rate at which glycogen (carbohydrates stored in muscle) is replenished. Therefore, athletes should consume carbohydrates as soon as possible after the exercise session ends. The athlete’s size and type of workout play a role in how much carbohydrate should be consumed (1). See the post workout meal suggestions below.
Exercise causes carbohydrate, fat, and even some protein to be broken down and used to provide energy for working muscles. In addition to carbohydrates, protein should also be consumed within the first hour after exercise to help with muscle repair and growth. Protein from food provides the necessary amino acids for building and maintaining muscle. CrossFitters need about 1.5-2g per kg of body weight or 0.75-1g per pound of body weight. For example, a 175 pound athlete would need about 120-160 g of protein per day. No matter how much protein an athlete consumes, it should be in balance with carbohydrate, fat and energy intake, and it should be specific to the athlete’s performance and body composition goals (1).
It is important to remember that our diet plays a vital role in providing adequate energy for physical activity and daily functions. The type, amount, composition, and timing of food intake can dramatically affect performance. A well-planned diet will help optimize performance and is essential in helping an athlete meet their athletic goals (2). The bottom line is plan ahead and have food or a protein shake ready following a workout.
Sample pre or post exercise snack/ meal
- 1 piece of whole wheat toast, pita +1 medium Apple or other serving of fruit + 1-2 eggs
- 1 scoop protein powder + 1 banana + 1 C milk or milk alternative
- Low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt + 1/2 -1 C berries + 1-2 eggs
- Omelette with veggies + 1-2 pieces of whole wheat toast or 1/4-1/2 C oats
- 1/2 C cottage cheese + 1/2 C fresh fruit
- Tuna sandwich on whole wheat bead + 1 piece of fresh fruit
1. Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition- Marie Dunford, 2010.
2. Nutrition for health, Fitness & Sport- Melvin H Williams, 2010.