Why post-workout recovery is important

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We’ve all done it – it’s incredibly easy to skip that last part of the workout, usually called the “cool down.” Yet the truth is that this final step of the workout, and more importantly the nourishment you give yourself after it, are both critical for better performance. Nutrition is vital for recovery, so what should you eat, drink, and do post-run?

 

Post-Workout Recovery

Fluid and electrolyte balance

Working out means sweating a lot; it’s only natural. You also lose electrolytes (mainly sodium) in sweat, depending on the intensity and duration of the workout. To hydrate after a shorter run, drinking water to replace the lost fluid should suffice. However, when you work out for one hour or longer, drinking water with added sodium and carbohydrates is beneficial for performance. Remember to continue to drink after the workout is completed too! To optimize recovery, you should drink enough to replace the lost fluid by 150%. A good way to make sure that enough water is consumed is by checking the colour of the urine in the morning. If it is dark – the intake of water is most likely too low. (1)

Carbs

Yes, you read that right! Working out depletes our glycogen stores, leaving us low on back up energy. That’s why after each workout, it’s a good idea to eat some carbohydrates. Simple carbs that are easy to digest and absorb should be eaten after scheduled exercise. Post-training, they provide energy to refill your depleted glycogen stores, which is vital for the best recovery. (2)

Protein

As you may know, protein is the key to strengthening and rebuilding your muscles after a workout (3). As with carbs, you’ll want to eat lean protein sources like eggs, tofu, fish, chicken, and turkey after your workout. Not only does the protein rebuild and recover muscles, it also helps absorb carbs to refill your glycogen stores. (1)

A snack straight after your workout will help the body to recover and refill its empty stores. For a woman weighing 60 kg / 132 lb, carb and protein-rich snack ideas could include a mango smoothie containing banana and Greek yogurt, or two slices of bread with cheese and one banana. These provide the carbs and protein needed after a workout.

Sleep

Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. While nutrition is important for making sure your body has what it needs, it’s important to also make sure that you allow your body to rest. That way, it can recover properly to get ready for the next run!

Checklist for optimizing recovery

So, after a race the most important things to think about are:

  1. Snack! Fill up empty glycogen stores and nourish the muscles with a snack including both carbohydrates and protein. Eat this as soon as possible after the race.
  2. Hydrate! Make sure to continue to drink even after the race is finished. Your drink should also include some sodium if the race lasted for longer than one hour.
  3. Energize! Eat a proper meal a couple of hours after the race to fill your body with energy and nutrients.
  4. Rest! Make sure to plan some time for rest, so that you’re able to recover in the best way possible.

References

1. Andersson, A. Idrottsnutrition. I Näringslära för högskolan, Abrahamsson, L., Andersson, A., Nilsson, G (red.),160-179. Stockholm: Liber AB, 2013. 

2. Burke, L., Deakin, V. Clinical Sports Nutrition. 5th ed. New York: Mc Graw Hill Education, 2015, 425.

3. Livsmedelsverket. Protein. 2019. https://bit.ly/35CwVR5 (Hämtad 2019-09-11).

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