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Post-Workout Snacks: Refueling Hacks

Gazelle Nutrition Lab / Blog  / Post-Workout Snacks: Refueling Hacks

Post-Workout Snacks: Refueling Hacks

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Post-workout snacks are a key ingredient to every performance diet. When your exercise intensity is high, recovery fuel is important for recreational and performance athletes alike. Eating after a tough workout gives you extra carbohydrates and protein on the days you need them most, helping to restore your muscle glycogen and build your muscles. Even so, what to munch after a workout can be a conundrum.

Post-Workout Snacks to Replenish

Post-workout snacks recharge your energy stores and allow for muscle building. Adequate nutrition after exercise is also beneficial for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Replenishing your stores after exercise is important. But, whether you need to be stringent about timing and nutrient content depends on a number factors. These factors include your baseline nutritional status, whether you are a recreational or high-performance athlete, your current training load, and your exercise frequency.

When Timing is Key

If you are preparing to perform a hard workout or compete within 6 to 8 hours of your last workout, then you will benefit most from a well-timed snack.

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate. Athletes who appropriately replenish their glycogen stores perform better during future workouts and when they compete.

Glycogen is best stored immediately after exercise. But it is possible to replenish glycogen stores after this period. If you eat sufficient carbohydrates as part of your daily diet, you can expect to replenish their stores within a day or so. However, if you need that carbohydrate energy soon after your last exercise bout, then you need to be mindful about optimizing your food content and timing.

What’s your best bet? Strive for including a wholesome, balanced snack after most workouts. Don’t beat yourself up about missing the odd snack. It’s not a big deal when you don’t have a big workout or competition within 6 to 8 hours of your last workout.

Muscle Repair and Building

Don’t get me wrong, though, eating after exercise is a good habit to practice. While performance may not suffer, snacking to support healthy immune function and building and repairing muscle are also important goals.

Including a good source of protein after exercise and even during exercise has been shown to optimize muscle anabolism. Protein is also necessary for making glycogen. Leucine is an amino acid (or building block of protein) that appears to play a particularly beneficial role in muscle development. Find leucine in foods like dairy products, eggs, and chicken.

So, in a nutshell, when done right snacking is a fantastic component to a healthy diet. Snacking can help to keep up your energy when you are an athlete.  Aim to eat a high carbohydrate, moderate protein snack or meal to refuel. The trick is to find delicious and healthy snacks that suit your needs over the course of your training or competition day.

Tips to Optimize Your Post-Workout Snack Regime

Carbohydrate:

  • Eat carbohydrate-containing foods within 15-30 minutes of exercise and follow with a meal within 2 hours. Eating after an activity is most significant after strenuous exercise. Fuel up as soon as you can if your next exercise bout is within 6-8 hours of your last workout.
  • For fast refueling in less than 6-8 hours eat 1-1.2 g carbohydrate/kg body weight/h (or, 0.5-0.6 g/pound body weight/h) for 4-5 hours following exercise.
  • For regular refueling, aim for post-workout snacks that fit into your 24-hour carbohydrate goals:
    • 3-5 g/kg for light intensity skill-based activities
    • 5-7 g/kg for about 1 h/d of moderate intensity activity
    • 6-10 g/kg for 1-3 h/d moderate to high-intensity activity
    • 8-12 g/kg for > 4-5 h/d of moderate to high intensity activity
  • Solid and liquid forms of carbohydrate are equally as good at replacing glycogen.
  • A person weighing 80 kg (176 lb.) needs about 80 g to 120 g of carbohydrate after exercise. A sandwich with two slices of bread, medium fruit, and 2 cups of flavored kefir provides about 75 g of carbs.

Protein:

  • Include protein for muscle repair and building after a workout.
  • Aim for 0.25 g- 0.4 g protein per kg of body weight (or, 0.1 g- 0.2 g of protein per pound). A person weighing 80 kg (176 lb.) needs about 20 g of protein. 2 cups of milk has approximately 20 g of protein.
  • Aim for 2-3 g of leucine after a workout. Good sources of leucine include animal foods like milk, chicken, beef and pork and plant foods such as beans and nuts.

Water:

  • Include fluid for rehydration.
  • Sodium is also important for rehydration. Many people eat enough sodium to meet their needs for exercise. Others may need to add salt. This is especially true if you do prolonged exercise, sweat profusely or are a salty sweater.
  • Weigh yourself before and after you exercise. This technique provides you with feedback about whether you are drinking appropriate amounts during exercise, as well as telling you how much to drink after exercise.
  • If you weigh more at the end of a workout, you are drinking too much while you exercise. If you have lost 2% or more of your body weight, then you are drinking too little.
  • After exercise, drink 1.25 L to 1.5 L for every kg lost during exercise (or, 2-3 cups for every pound lost).

Other:

  • Individual tolerance for food items varies between athletes. Trial foods before a competition day. Practice your nutrition before you compete. This includes both individual food items and timing.
  • Remember to include fruit and vegetables because they contain essential nutrients for working muscles like potassium and antioxidants.

 

Snack Examples: 50 to 100 g of carbohydrate and 15 to 20 g of protein

 

Snack Carbohydrate (g) Protein (g) Calories

·      Chocolate Milk (500 ml)

50

 

17 268

·      Kefir (1 cup, flavored)

·      Apple (med)

·      Almonds (1/4 cup)

·      Honey (1 Tbsp.)

 

27

21

7

17

72

9

0

8

0

17

144

84

200

64

492

 

·      Oatmeal (1/2 cup dry)

·      Soy Milk (1 cup plain)

·      Blueberries (1 cup)

·      Hemp Seeds (1 Tbsp.)

 

27

9

16

1

53

5

8

1

4

18

300

110

68

57

535

·      Sports Drink (2 cups)

·      Banana (1 medium)

·      Egg Whites (3)

 

28

30

0

58

0

2

12

14

112

128

51

291

·      Bagel (1 medium)

·      Jam (1 Tbsp.)

·      Peanut Butter (1 Tbsp.)

·      Skim Milk (1 cup)

 

58

15

3

13

89

9

0

4

9

22

290

60

90

90

530

 

Find more information on post-exercise snacks at the following sites:

References

Jentjens and Jeukendrup AE. Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Med 2003b;33(2):117-144.

Joint Position Statement: nutrition and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):543-568.

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Ashley Leone

Ashley is a Sports Dietitian and Owner of Gazelle Nutrition Lab. Ashley provides nutrition advice and plans to athletes and everyday active people alike. Her goal is to help fuel your inner athlete and put good sense back into eating. Ashley is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable nutrition specialist, and has been a Registered Dietitian for almost 20 years.

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