Jeff Gaudette

Written by Jeff Gaudette

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Why Do I Need to Eat after a Workout (and What Should I Eat?)

Perhaps the most important and often overlooked aspect of training, both for the elite athlete and the occasional exerciser, involves the recovery process and the refueling of the body.

Refueling after a hard run is a critical step in the recovery process. Here's what you should eat and drink after a run and why.

Every time you exercise your body breaks down muscle fibers and creates small micro tears in your muscles.

Ideally, the body repairs these little tears and actually makes them stronger by the time you go to exercise again. Simplistically, this is how the body continue to progress your fitness.

However, in order for your body to complete this rebuilding process it needs the proper nutrients, and lots of them.

Many scientific studies have determined the optimal time and amount of nutrients needed to be consumed in order to maximize the recovery process.

Ideally, nutrient intake should begin as soon as possible after finishing exercise and continue for about an hour to 90 minutes.

During this time, you should consume a 4 to 1 ration of Carbohydrates to Protein. This means that for every 4 grams of carbs you consume you also need 1 gram of protein.

The consumption of too much protein in this process will inhibit your body’s absorption of the carbohydrates by slowing the gastric emptying rate.

That being said, a little bit of protein helps produce muscle rebuilding amino acids and hormones

This formula may seem like a complicated system to add to your already hectic training schedule.

However, with very little planning and a few ideas from me, you can make it very easy.

My personal favorite recovery tool is a product called Endurox because it contains the perfect 4 to 1 ratio along with many amino acids and vitamins.

I find it to be the perfect no brain solution to my recovery needs. I personally love the chocolate flavor, but I have heard the vanilla is delicious too.

Yes, it can be a little pricey I usually only use it after my hardest workouts and I suggest looking online for the best price.

For that reason, I will also suggest a few other nutrition options to give you some ideas.

If you are at the gym a good suggestion is gatorade and a powerbar. Both are portable and will stay good even in your gym bag.

At home you have a wider range of options. If you prefer liquids you can go with chocolate milk. Yes chocolate milk is good for you! I also like yogurt with a bagel or some granola.

No matter what you choose as your recovery food of choice make sure you consume it as soon after exercise as possible.

The body has a small window of optimal nutrient absorption, 30-90 minutes, and you want to make sure you utilize as much of that window as possible.

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References

Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance. Williams MB, Raven PB, Fogt DL, Ivy JL. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17:12-19, 2003.

Effects Of Recovery Drinks After Prolonged Glycogen-Depletion Exercise. Williams MJ, Ivy JL, Raven PB. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 31(5):S124, 1999.

Early post-exercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Ivy JL, Goforth HW Jr, Damon BM, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Journal of Applied Physiology. 93: 1337-1344, 2002.

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4 Responses on “Why Do I Need to Eat after a Workout (and What Should I Eat?)

  1. Question.. I’m not typically a long distance runner, however I signed up for a marathon in June and have now been training short and long distance runs weekly (novice schedule). My schedule prior to this was strictly strength training (perfroming a separate muscle component each day during the week, followed by 20 minutes of cardio after each session). I’m still following the same lifting schedule, but added my 3-4 mile runs afterwards. I consume a protein shake (20g) mixed with spinach, 1/4 dry oatmeal, 1/4 blueberries and 1/4 almond milk 45-60 min before my workout, and then 10 min after my run I consume 20g of protein powder and 1/4 dry oatmeal mixed with water. Am I doing the right thing? I’m just terrified of losing muscle now that I’m running more. It took soooooo long for me to even build muscle. Any advice?

    Nicole

  2. Question:

    I am training for a half marathon and naturally of a petite build with small appetite. My long distance first-thing-in-the-morning training had been going quite successfully until a week or so ago when I began to get an incredibly debilitating stitch on one side…
    I’m not sure what the root cause of this is. Could it be stretching, not enough high protein/carb foods in recovery period?

  3. My 19 year old (slim) daughter is training for a half marathon. We run shorter runs during the week 4 1/2 to 7 and then 10 ish on Saturday. She is struggling with weight gain especially after long run days. Pants that fit the other day don’t fit today- she is a healthy eater. Could it be that she doesn’t eat enough carbs after a run? Any ideas? She is so frustrated. After a run she will eat a turkey sandwich and fruit- and lots of water. We are struggling.

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