Optimal nutrition after exercise is essential for the body to recover and be able to perform workouts on a regular basis. Between workouts the body needs to adapt to stress that has been put on it. Providing the correct fluid and nutrients can help the body recover correctly allowing an athlete to be come faster and stronger. The 3 pillars to correct post workout nutrition are: refuelling, rehydrating and repairing.
Carbohydrate are the key fuel source used by the body during high intensity and prolonged exercise. Our body operates similarly to a car: muscle glycogen is our fuel source and when our heart rate increases our body uses glycogen more quickly so we need to refuel so that our body is able to perform again. The main source of glycogen is carbohydrates. If glycogen stores aren't restored after exercise it can affect the ability to train and cause muscle fatigue. Foods high in the Glycaemic indexare preferred after exercise as they are absorbed by the body more quickly. Carbohydrates have also been shown to help our immune system by reducing the stress response created by exercise, while also fuelling the immunes system's white blood cells. 1g per kg of body weight is the recommended amount of carbohydrates needed after exercise.
During intense exercise, our body loses fluid and electrolytes through sweat. For exercise durations between 30-60 minutes water is adequate to replace our fluid however after 60 minutes sports drinks are necessary to replace fluids and electrolytes. If correct rehydration is not adhered to it can cause dehydrationand fatigue which will negatively affect future performances. Weighing yourself before and after exercise is good way to determine how much fluid you have lost. A person should aim to replace 125-150% of their estimated fluid losses. Rehydration should start immediately after exercise.
High intensity exercise, whether it be on the sporting pitch or in the gym, can cause small muscle tears in the body. There is a fine balance between muscle breakdown and muscle building in the body; during exercise your body is in a catabolic state, meaning it is breaking down muscle mass, where as in the recovery phase your body is an anabolic state, meaning building muscle mass. Its during this recovery phase that it is important to consume quality protein foods to help build enhance muscle uptake, amino acid retention and protein balance so that you can recover faster and become stronger, which increases the quality of future performances. 1.2g of protein per kg of body mass is recommended per day.
Overall around 80g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein are recommended post exercise, within the first hour is the ideal time to consume during the anabolic recovery phase. It is also recommended that protein and carbohydrates are consumed together as carbohydrates increase protein uptake. With a big meal sometimes hard to consume straight after exercise, nutrient dense snacks that include both carbohydrates and protein are recommended.