An appropriate diet in terms of quality and quantity before, during and after training can maximise benefits of working out. During exercise, we tend to lose water and calories, so we need to refuel. The hunger you may feel after an exercise isn’t the only reason why you should eat after a workout, the body also needs adequate nourishment after meals.
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 that refueling still occurs for several hours, just at a slowing rate.
There are three golden rules of a post-workout meal — rehydration, repletion of glycogen stores (carbohydrates — 1-1.5 g/ kg BW/hour; continue this for four hours) and restoration of electrolyte balance.
During workout, our carbohydrate stores are consumed. In order to replenish it, we should ideally have a meal within the first 15 minutes of workout. This helps in better and quicker muscle recovery. Eat a snack containing 50-100 grams of carbohydrates (200-400 calories) within 15 minutes. Liquids and solids work equally well. For example, one can go for a bagel and a glass of mixed fruit juice or a banana shake. Continue to eat 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight every two hours for six to eight hours on that day.
To re-energise your muscles after a rigorous workout, you should also focus on protein in addition to fluids and carbohydrates. Even though carbohydrates are the key to supply energy to the muscles, studies have shown that addition of protein will help your body store even more energy. With 100 gms of carbohydrates, one can add 10-15 grams of protein to the meal.
This can easily be accomplished by smoothies, peanut butter protein bread toast, or yoghurt with fruit and granola. After two hours, one can go for meals like chicken with brown rice or pasta with shredded eggs. If you prefer not to eat solids soon after exercise, try a recovery sports drink that has protein and carbohydrates.
One can also go for energy bars that provide excellent mix of carbohydrates and protein. These are most convenient and budget-friendly post-workout snacks that are easy to carry. For people involved in endurance sports, who have to train twice in a day many times, this post workout meal is very helpful to prevent chronic fatigue and promote peak performance.
Remember to drink adequate fluids. It’s very important to keep yourself hydrated to optimise your next performance; two to three cups after your workout for every pound of weight you lose during the workout would be good enough to start with.
Choosing the right foods and keeping the right composition of meals and snacks can accelerate the athletic performance. Always consult a professional sports nutritionist for the precise individualised diet plan, which will help you optimally replenish and recover more quickly.
According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:
Amount of workout Gram carb/lb Gram carb/kg
Moderate exercise (~1 hour/day) 2.5 to 3 5-7
Endurance exercise (1-3 h/day) 2.5 to 4.5 6-10
Extreme exercise (>4-5 h/day) 3.5 to 5.5 8-12
For example, a 150-lb triathlete doing extreme exercise should target approximately 500 to 800 g carb/day (2,000 to 3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 g of carbs every four hours during the daytime.