Post Workout Nutrition – what do you really need?

Are you confused about what to consume post workout? RD-to-be Sara Shipley breaks down the basics and provides excellent suggestions for post workout nutrition:

We’ve heard it all before: “You need protein after a workout!”

But why? And how much? Will two scoops of any protein powder in your morning smoothie cover all of your bases? Maybe, but here’s what else you need to know about properly refueling and repairing your muscles so you can get back to your life and get ready for tomorrow’s workout.

After strenuous activity our muscle tissue is damaged (this is normal) and our glycogen (carbohydrate stored in our muscle) is depleted. And, depending on how much fluid you consumed while exercising, you may also need to replace a good amount of fluid lost through sweat (and possibly electrolytes too). The right combination of protein, carbohydrate and fluids consumed post-workout will help your muscles recover faster with less soreness and fatigue. Here’s a breakdown on how much you should take:

Protein will help your muscles repair and build new muscle tissue (especially after a bout of resistance training). You can consume protein rich foods or sports supplements for convenience. However, you should aim for a minimum of 25 grams after resistance training (lifting weights for instance) and at least 10 grams after endurance training. If you are choosing food-based sources of protein opt for lean, high quality protein such as egg whites, skinless chicken, turkey breast, 1% cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt.

Carbohydrate is the fuel that powers your workouts. Your body’s stores of carbohydrate, in the form of glycogen, last about 2 hours (less if you are exercising very intensely). And, we now that athletic performance suffers when our carbohydrate stores become depleted. Therefore, carbs post-workout are vital to replacing glycogen stores. Aim for at least 60-75 grams or more. Bagels, pretzels and pasta are all good bets. If you aren’t hungry, try liquid carbs in the form of a sports drink or flavored milk.

Hydration and electrolytes are lost through sweat. And, drinking during your workout may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes you can’t quite makeup for your fluid losses through sweat. If your workout was intense, you need to replace electrolytes (primarily sodium) lost through sweat as well (especially if you are a salty sweater as evidenced by white salt crystals on your face, ears or neck). Sports drinks are a great way to re-hydrate or you can opt for other hydrating beverages (water, juice, milk) consumed in combination with salty foods.

Another thought to consider: post-workout inflammation. Some inflammation is good but too much inflammation may slow the recovery process. So, choose foods that may help combat inflammation including tart cherry juice (or eat cherries), mango, fresh pineapple whey protein and deeply colored fruits and vegetables.

Some of my favorite post-workout foods:

  • chocolate milk
  • eggs on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, with a sprinkle of cheese
  • cottage cheese with sliced cherry tomatoes and whole grain pretzels
  • Greek yogurt with blueberries and whole grain granola
  • soup with grilled cheese (bonus – great for replacing sodium!)
  • skinless grilled chicken and wholegrain brown rice
  • whole grain pita filled with hummus, grilled veggies and a dollop of plain yogurt, paired with a large glass of milk
  • Clif or Luna bar
  • Sports drink
  • Smoothie made with whey protein, any mix of berries, skim milk and ice (you can also add mango or pineapple)

 

 

 

Post-Workout Power Smoothie

Many people eat the same 25-30 foods each week. And, one of my favorites is this super easy post-workout smoothie. I typically don’t feel like eating right away after training but know that I have a 30 minute window of opportunity to replace the carbohydrate stores in my muscle tissue (glycogen) and boost muscle growth and repair.

So, I created this shake with tasty, functional ingredients that refuel my body, build and repair muscle and provide antioxidants to help tame muscle tissue inflammation. Here are the ingredients and the benefits each one provides below the recipe:

Power Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 8 oz milk (whole if you need to gain weight, otherwise choose skim, 1 or 2%)
  • 1 scoop protein powder (containing at least 20 grams whey protein)
  • 3-4 chunks of frozen mango
  • 1/3 cup frozen mixed berries
  • ginger root, shaved (if you don’t shave it you may break a cheap blender 😉

Directions

Mix, add ice if desired.

Rationale for each ingredient:

  • milk – calcium, vitamin D & magnesium all play roles in muscle functioning and bone health; plus milk is a great source of quality protein
  • protein powder – whey contains the optimal amount of specific amino acids you need for muscle tissue growth and repair
  • mango – in addition to making your shake thick like a milkshake, mango may help combat inflammation
  • red, blue and purple berries contain antioxidant flavonoids that may attenuate inflammation, limit tissue breakdown and improve circulation while promoting a nice strong collagen matrix
  • ginger –  research out of the University of Georgia found that 2 grams of ginger per day can help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
Looking for more great Summertime beverages? Check these recipes out from my colleagues:

My Anti-Inflammatory Stack

Lately I’ve got bad tendonitis. Too much typing, not enough stretching or massage, not following the RICE protocol, whatever the contributing factors are, all I know is that it hurts and popping NSAIDS is beyond useless. If you’ve spent your fair share of quality time in training rooms, in ice baths (I’m sold on these after my experience with them at Athlete’s Performance Institute), with a stem machine and more, you know how frustrating it is to be injured. And while there’s typically no one modality that works perfectly to fight pain and inflammation, a variety of things can help get you back to practice. And, nutrition plays an important role so, I developed my own concoction or “stack” (partly because I love mixing stuff together).

So here it is and below this a little why on the ingredients I chose:

  • Milk
  • Protein powder that’s rich in BCAAs (I used Isatori’s Eat Smart because it blends well and Muscle Milk Light Chocolate Mint)
  • Fresh cut pineapple
  • Frozen mango
  • Fresh ginger (peeled of course; I put in a nice 1 inch x 1/2 inch chunk)
  • Blueberries or frozen acai

There are 2 things missing that I could have added: caffeine and fish oil (though you can down this by pill form with any meal).

Now the rationnale:

  • Milk is loaded with high quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and it tastes good so that’s my base.
  • I added protein (and high quality protein rich in branched chain amino acids)because it is key for building and repairing muscle.
  • Next I threw in an anti-inflammatory cocktail starting with fresh pineapple which is loaded with bromelain which fights inflammation;
  • Mango – may help with inflammation and makes my shake nice and thick!
  • Ginger – two studies at my alma mater UGA shows that 2 grams of ginger per day helps reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
  • Red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant flavonoids that may limit inflammation, limit tissue breakdown, improve circulation and promote a nice strong collagen matrix.
  • Caffeine post exercise (granted, you may need a nice strong dose since studies have used 5 mg/kg body weight) can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness and pain after hard core exercise. If you want it in shake form, use a protein powder that contains caffeine or use cold coffee as your base.

And there you have it! My research-based, tastes great shake. Now if only I could incorporate the RICE technique somewhere on a beach overlooking blue ocean water, I’d be pain free!