Whether it’s a long run, practice before the big game or an all-day meet, good nutrition is key for optimal athletic performance. While many of us think about what we’ll eat or drink before we exercise, we often neglect to think about the most important time to optimize performance: post-exercise. Your post-exercise nutrition – what you eat and drink after exercise – has an enormous impact on how your body recovers before the next game or practice.
When choosing recovery foods, including post-exercise snacks and meals, remember the following:
- Restore With Carbohydrates. During exercise, your body relies on blood glucose and stored muscle glucose (glycogen) as fuel – or energy. This stored muscle glucose is often depleted after exercise and needs to be replaced, in the form of dietary carbohydrates.
- Resynthesize With Protein. During activity, muscle is broken down. While this is a natural result of strenuous activity, future athletic performance in practices and games is largely impacted by how well our muscles rebuild and resynthesize new muscle fibers after a workout. Protein aids in this recovery effort. Protein-rich foods are also linked to a reduction in muscle soreness. 10-20 grams of protein is recommended post-exercise.
- Rehydrate With Fluid and Electrolytes. When you exercise, you lose fluid in the form of sweat. The harder you exercise, the more fluid is lost. In addition to fluid, electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium, are lost in sweat.
Milk, both white and chocolate, is an excellent choice after exercise; It provides carbohydrates to help refuel muscles, high-quality protein to reduce muscle breakdown, and fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate the body. Ideally, we are refueling within 30 to 60 minutes of exercise.
Other ideas for recovery nutrition include…
- A smoothie with milk, yogurt and your favorite fruits. Adding frozen fruit to your smoothie helps create the perfect creamy texture.
- A yogurt parfait with vanilla Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein than regular yogurt, fresh diced berries and granola. This can be done in a pretty glass or in a small plastic container with a lid – ready to grab on your way out the door.
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich with a glass of ice-cold milk
- Cottage cheese topped with peaches
- String cheese, a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fresh fruit
- Loaded baked potato with extra cheese and steamed vegetables
Boost your body’s recovery ability by putting in the extra effort to refuel right after exercise.
Want to learn more? Visit DairyDiscoveryZone.com to read about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and to find new recipes and healthy eating inspiration.