How to replenish yourself post-workout
If you're feeling fatigued, sore or worn out, what you're eating after exercise may be to blame. That's not to say you need to eat more, but smarter.
“The biggest mistake people make after a workout is eating too many calories, specifically protein,” says Angie Scheetz, a registered dietitian and wellness coordinator at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport. “Excess calories from any source are stored in the body as fat,” she said, “so be sure to check what you are eating and try to stick to the recommendation of only 6 to 20 grams of protein post workout.”
Scheetz says optimal recovery nutrition requires fluids, carbohydrates, proteins and electrolytes.
Her suggestions and personal favorites for post-workout nutrition are:
Fluids: Fluid replacement is a top priority after any workout or competition. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise through sweating. The best choices for replacing lost fluids are water, fruit juices, low-fat milk, whole fruits and vegetables and soups. Personal favorite: Water. It is free and readily available.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate-rich foods are critical for replenishing muscle glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate in the body. Aim to eat at least a half gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. High-carbohydrate, post-exercise meal and snack choices might include:
• 1⁄2 cup of orange juice and a small bagel (45 grams carbohydrates).
• 1 cup of bran flakes cereal with a banana and 8 ounces skim milk (70 grams carbohydrates).
• 1 cup of chicken and rice soup with a peanut butter sandwich (78 grams carbohydrates).
Personal favorite:1 cup of low-fat fruit yogurt with one-half cup low-fat granola (85 grams carbohydrates).
Protein: Protein enhances the rebuilding of muscle tissue after exercise, but you don't need a lot. Add a slice of turkey to the orange juice and bagel suggestion and that gives you 13 grams of protein. The other snack choices (above) provide between 15 and 27 grams of protein each. Personal favorite: A cup of cold, low-fat chocolate milk. It has the recommended amount of protein, carbs and sodium and tastes delicious.
Electrolytes: Sodium and potassium are lost in sweat and need to be replaced after exercise. An athlete who works out vigorously for two hours or more may lose up to 300 to 800 milligrams of potassium. A medium banana provides about 450 milligrams of potassium, while a cup of yogurt provides approximately 520 milligrams. Sodium losses depend on environmental and training conditions, but many foods provide ample sodium for recovery.
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