E-News Detail

Cal South E-News | January 2012 NUTRITION EDUCATION

January 19, 2012


content provided by

Nancy Clark MS RD

Recovering from Hard Exercise: How to Refuel
By Nancy Clark MS RD

What's best to eat for recovery after a hard workout?

That's what soccer players, marathoners, and body builders alike repeatedly ask. They read ads for commercial recovery foods that demand a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein, tout the benefits of a proprietary formula, or emphasize immediate consumption the minute you stop exercising. While these ads offer an element of truth, consumers beware: engineered recovery foods are not more effective than standard foods. The purpose of this article is to educate you, a hungry soccer player, about how to choose an optimal recovery diet.

Which soccer players need to worry about a recovery diet?

Too many athletes are obsessed with rapidly refueling the minute they stop exercising. They are afraid they will miss the one-hour "window of opportunity" when glycogen replacement is fastest. They fail to understand refueling still occurs for several hours, just at a slowing rate. Given a steady influx of adequate carb-based meals and snacks, muscles can refuel within 24 hours. If you have a full day to recover before your next training session or game, or if you have done an easy (non-depleting) workout, you need not obsess about refueling immediately afterwards.

Refueling as soon as tolerable is most important for serious athletes doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first workout, including-

• soccer players in tournaments,
• triathletes doing double workouts,
• people who ski hard in the morning and again in the afternoon.

The sooner you consume carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to repair damaged muscle, the sooner you'll be able to exercise hard again.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, your muscles will have lots of time to replenish glycogen stores. Just be sure to repeatedly consume a foundation of carbohydrates with each meal/snack, along with some protein to build and repair the muscles. For example, chocolate milk or fruit smoothies are excellent choices.

What are some good carb-protein recovery foods?

Your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables plus a smaller amount of protein (at least 10-20 grams per recovery snack or meal). Enjoy-

fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries)
cereal + milk bagel + (decaf) latté
pretzels + hummus baked potato + cottage cheese
turkey sub pasta + meatballs.

Do NOT consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana, frozen berries, and graham crackers.

Keep in mind that recovery calories "count." I hear many weight-conscious soccer players complain they are not losing weight despite hard workouts. Perhaps that's because they gobble 300 or so "recovery calories" and then go home and enjoy a hefty dinner. By organizing your training to end at mealtime, you can avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories.

What about recovery electrolytes?

After a hard practice or game, many soccer athletes reach for a sports drink, thinking Gatorade or PowerAde is "loaded" with sodium (an electrically charged particle). Think again! Milk and other "real foods" are actually better sources of electrolytes than most commercial sports products. These electrolytes (also known as sodium and potassium) help enhance fluid retention and the restoration of normal fluid balance. Here's how some common recovery fluids compare:

Beverage (8 oz) Sodium (mg) Potassium (mg) Protein (g) Carbs (g)
Water -- -- -- --
PowerAde 55 45 -- 19
Gatorade 110 30 -- 14
Low-fat milk 100 400 8 12
Chocolate milk 150 425 8 26
Orange juice -- 450 2 26

As you can see, after a hard workout, recovery fluids that such as chocolate milk, orange juice, or a latte offer far more "good stuff" than you'd get in a sports drink. Sports drinks are dilute and designed for during extended exercise.

For recipes for winning sports nutrition foods you can prepare for your post-game parties, check out Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark MS RD (Available at www.nancyclarkrd.com)

About the Author:

Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD is an internationally known sports nutritionist and nutrition author. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in nutrition for exercise, health and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD). Check out her website at www.nancyclarkrd.com.

Nutrition for Athletes: A practical guide to eating for health and performance.
Prepared by the Nutrition Working Group of the International Olympic Committee, Feb 2010

Campos. Manuel, S Gervais, J Walker, A Olson. Iron deficiency in Division III male cross country and track runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2821

Lee, Choi Hyun, J Kim, K Hoon Park, J Lee. Efect of the timing of protein supplement on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2862.

Nicewonger, Christine, J Flohr, M Todd, C Womack. The effect of iron supplementation on iron markers and performance in female athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2822