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By Monique Ryan
Post-exercise recovery nutrition jumpstarts the recovery process at an accelerated rate after endurance training. Recovery nutrition is especially important when there is less than eight hours between training sessions. Your goals are to replenish fuel stores, rehydrate, and facilitate muscle repair and recovery. Stay on top of your recovery nutrition and have appropriate foods, drinks, and supplements available.
• To restore fluid balance, drink fluids. If you are moderately to severely dehydrated when training is complete, you will have an increased risk of gastrointestinal upset that may limit your recovery food and fluid choices. Make hydration an immediate priority and start slowly.
• Monitor changes in body weight from the exercise session to evaluate hydration needs. After training, fluid losses will continue via sweating and urine losses, so drink adequately to compensate for these losses as well. Typically for every pound lost you should consume 24 ounces of fluid.
• When you are very dehydrated, fluids that also provide sodium can help to maximize fluid retention and minimize urine losses by replacing the sodium lost in sweat.
• Flavored and cool fluids should enhance fluid intake, though ice-cold fluids may be difficult to consume right after training.
• The diuretic effect of caffeine containing fluids has been overstated in habitual caffeine users, so some caffeine-containing fluids are fine. Just drink enough volume to rehydrate properly.
• A less than optimal balance of fluid and sodium intake after exercise can result in large amounts of dilute urine during the recovery period. Don’t be fooled that you are adequately hydrated.
• Consume food and fluids that provide 1 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight immediately after training. Repeat this amount in one hour and incorporate these guidelines into subsequent meals and snacks.
• Your total carbohydrate requirements for the day are determined by the intensity and duration of your training.
• Compact forms of carbohydrate such as concentrated carbohydrate drinks, liquid meal supplements, smoothies, and energy bars are convenient on days that your total carbohydrate and energy needs are high, and followed by another demanding training day.
• Lower glycemic carbohydrates such as lentils and dried beans should not be the primary source of carbohydrate in recovery meals and snacks as they provide slower recovery.
• Higher glycemic carbohydrates for speedy recovery include cereals, breads and bagels, jams, and most recovery sports nutrition supplements.
• Consuming protein with recovery snacks can enhance the synthesis of protein tissue and contribute to the total protein intake required for your training.
• Intake of 10 to 20 g of high quality protein is the recommended amount. Protein can be included in recovery products and this amount is easily reached with balanced meals and snacks.
• An example of a recovery carbohydrate and protein food combination is cereal with milk and fruit.
• Don’t consume protein as the expense of carbohydrate choices. If training lasted more than four hours, wait to consume ample amounts of healthy fats in meals and snacks following the first two recovery feedings.