Sports nutrition: Eating for recovery

Effective refueling starts with adequate carb and calorie intake.

The day after a long training run or hard race, have your legs ever felt heavy, do you feel sluggish or have sore muscles even though you didnâ??t have a resistance training session the day before? Do you feel low on energy and unable to give 100% performance for training?

As Marc, Lauren and Anne increase their mileage during the Race to Bayshore, refueling after exercise will be essential for adapting to the individual training programs that Coach Lisa has developed and feeling better about their performance.

Goals of recovery nutrition are:

Replacement of muscle fuel (glycogen) used during training

Supply protein to aid in repair of muscle and promote new tissue growth

Rehydration - restoring fluid and electrolytes (sodium) lost in sweat

Effective refueling starts with adequate carb and calorie intake. It can be good practice to begin refueling with a carb rich snack as soon as the training session is over to take advantage of the time muscles are most open for glycogen renewal. Especially if you have two training sessions a day or your next session is within 8-hours; beginning carb intake immediately after exercise stops

is necessary to take advantage of the recovery window and maximize recovery time. However, during longer recovery periodsâ?¦you run every other day or consecutive days at the same time each day, research has shown that muscle glycogen stores are replenished within 24-hours with adequate carb and energy intake from regularly planned carb-rich meals and snacks. Of course, the Three Amigos should be choosing nutrient-rich carbs for their post-run recovery snack and meals.

Protein is also an important part of recovery, especially after high intensity training sessions that damage muscle tissue; speed work, intervals, resistance training. As well as providing the building blocks for muscle repair and growth, high-quality protein, whey protein in particular, appears to promote additional glycogen recovery when carb intake is less that optimal or frequent meals and snacks are not possible.

Fluids and electrolyte replacement should be a priority immediately after training or competition. Rehydration can reduce the risk of stomach upset and discomfort, which means the athlete, has a better ability to eat enough nutrients to meet nutrition recovery goals. Weâ??ll cover more on hydration goals and strategies as the Race to Bayshore training program progresses.

Being tired, loss of appetite or stomach discomfort after high-intensity exercise, limited access to appropriate foods, post-exercise commitments (family, work, etc.), or alcohol intake can all interfere with eating for recovery. Marc, Lauren and Anne can try the following strategies and recovery snack/meal ideas after each session, to refuel to help achieve their training and performance goals.

For stomach discomfort or lack of appetite, choose:

  • Sugar-rich foods, low in fat and fiber

  • Liquid foods (low fat milk, smoothies, sports drink (carb, electrolytes, fluid)

  • Compact carb sources (sports bar or gel (carb, protein), jelly beans)

  • Small frequent meals and snacks, 2-hours apart

Easy to eat, carb-rich snacks with protein:

  • Smoothie made with yogurt + frozen berries

  • Low fat chocolate milk + pretzels

  • Low fiber ready-to-eat cereal + milk

  • Fruit salad + low-fat fruit flavored yogurt or custard

  • Cereal bar + milk, yogurt or fruit

  • Jam sandwich + low fat milk

  • Graham crackers with cheese or peanut butter, banana + milk

Carb-rich recovery meal ideas:

  • English muffin with smoked salmon, pear + Swiss cheese

  • PBJ with whole wheat bread + baby carrots + fruit

  • Whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey or tuna and veggies + pretzels + low fat milk

  • Rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole wheat tortilla round or chips

  • Stir fry with steak or shrimp, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice

  • Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, ground turkey, mushrooms, bell peppers + asparagus

  • Baked sweet potato topped with bean chili, cheese + avocado

The actual timing and specific amount of carb, protein and fluid required depend on body size, training intensity, schedule, and performance goals. Consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition for a meal plan that is personalized to your body, your sport, your stage of training, and your goals. Contact Miranda Monroe via for a consultation to put the science of sports nutrition on your plate with a personalized plan and practical meal planning strategies to help you achieve your performance goals.

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