Post-workout food 101: the road to recovery

Wednesday 21 October 2015

You’ve had a really hard session.

You’ve given it your max, you’re sweating like a pig and you’re (understandably) thinking about food before you’ve even left the gym.

Refuelling (and rehydrating) is your top priority right now. And it’s the best way to help get your body back on track after such an intense workout.

But that doesn’t mean grabbing the first edible thing you see.

What you eat and when you eat are both important things to consider if you don’t want to waste all that hard sweaty work.

Here’s the low down on making smart post-workout choices for your road to recovery…

What should I eat after a workout?

Unless you’re an elite athlete or hardcore bodybuilder with rigorous nutrition regimes, it’s pretty straight forward.

Don’t eat crap. And choose healthy, whole foods – AKA protein and carbs – that are going to help you repair damaged muscle tissue (protein breakdown) and rebuild (protein synthesis) so you get stronger and fitter.

For a balanced post-workout meal you’ll need a combination of high-quality protein, non-processed carbs (like beans or rice), healthy fats and some fruit or veggies.

Any high-quality protein like eggs, protein-rich meat, milk or tuna, should do the job. As long as you eat enough.

Researchers from Cornell University even say that (low-fat) chocolate milk is “the gold standard for a recovery beverage”. We’re sold!

So how much is enough?

Well, if you weight train regularly (at least four times a week), you should aim to consume approximately between 1.4 to 2.0 g of protein for every kg of body weight per day. Though this does depend on what type of exercise you’re doing. If it’s endurance training, you’re looking at the lower end of the scale. And for strength training, aim for the higher end.

So for example:

Female weighing 62kg doing an endurance cardio session = 93 grams of protein per day
Male weighing 78kg doing a strength training session = 140 grams of protein per day

While you’ll obviously get the majority of your protein from daily meals, researchers suggest that an extra 20 grams of protein after a workout is sufficient for recovery.

To put this into perspective:

  • One egg = 6 grams of protein*
  • One glass of milk = 8 grams of protein*
  • Chicken breast = 30 grams of protein*
  • A 70 gram tin of tuna = 20 grams of protein*

*Approximates

Something to bear in mind if you’re looking to get your protein intake on point when you’re working out.

When do I need to eat?

Timing is pretty crucial when it comes to post-workout nutrition. Especially after a really tough session.

If you only ate a small snack before your workout, then get a post-workout meal down you sooner rather than later. And if you ate nothing at all (yes, I’m looking at you, early-bird exercisers) then eat ASAP!

Not eating within a two-hour window will slow recovery.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Marc Majcher.

 

Amy Cox

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AMY COX
Amy is UQ Sport’s resident blogger. She’s a peanut-butter loving Brit, who exercises to eat whatever she wants. You’ll find Amy either in the gym, playing badminton or doing the wrong moves in group fitness classes.