Nutrition’s “3 Rs” for Post-workout Recovery
Your workout routine isn’t over when you leave the gym. A focus on post-workout recovery nutrition will help you maximize your training benefits and improve your overall fitness level. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are 3 Rs to address after each exercise session: replenish, rebuild, and rehydrate. Read on to learn about how these principles help you replete energy and nutrient stores, repair damaged tissue, and keep your body in balance.
Glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate found in your liver and muscles) is one of the energy sources you access during exercise. Vigorous or intense workouts can deplete glycogen reserves, so one post-exercise goal is to replenish your stores. To do so, nourish yourself with nutrient-rich, high carbohydrate foods within two hours after your workout. Good choices include whole grains (barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa), pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils), and fruit (apples, bananas, berries, kiwi, mango, oranges).
Exercise creates microtears in muscle fibers, which can contribute to feeling sore for a day or two after training. This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. To repair the damage, your body needs protein. In fact, even if you don’t experience DOMS your muscles still need protein to properly recover.
In addition to healing, adequate protein can also help build muscle mass. Research shows that taking in about 20 grams of high-quality protein within an hour after your workout supports muscle repair and growth.
Protein can come from either plant or animal sources. In addition to animal proteins, like salmon, chicken, and cottage cheese, you’ll find protein in plant foods, like tofu, quinoa, seeds, and nuts. You can also blend protein powder into a post-workout recovery smoothie.
Rehydrate: Fluid (and possibly electrolytes)
Sweating during exercise helps maintain your body temperature, but it’s important to replace the fluid – and possibly electrolytes – lost in sweat within two hours after a workout.
If your workout lasted less than an hour and you didn’t break much of a sweat, plain water is likely fine. But if your training session was vigorous, lasted for over one hour, or if you heavily perspired, plain water is not adequate because it doesn’t contain electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals (sodium, potassium, and chloride) lost in sweat. They help maintain fluid balance in the body and regulate heart and muscle functions, so replenishing them is vital for health and recovery. When needed, add an electrolyte tablet or powder to your water post-exercise to replace these mineral losses and prevent electrolyte imbalances.