Nutrition for Optimal Exercise Recovery | Youth1

Nutrition for Optimal Exercise Recovery

Recovery is one of the most important aspects of any serious athlete’s regimen. When you push your body
regularly with training and competition, you need to refuel the muscles so you are ready for the next event or
training session. If you neglect post-exercise nutrition, you will run low on energy, and either your training or
event performance (or both) will suffer.

It’s important to think about nutrition for recovery throughout the training and competitive season. Pay close
attention to recovery nutrition during:

• Twice-a-day training
• Tournament play all day or weekend tournaments
• Events where prelims are in the morning and finals later that day
• Day-long meets with time in between events


What to eat:

Carbohydrate is the preferred fuel for the muscles both during and after hard exercise. The body uses
carbohydrate during intense training and competition. Eat meals and snacks that contain all the macronutrients
(carbohydrate, protein and fat) after exercise, but with carbohydrates in the highest percentage. Be sure to
keep the fluids flowing. Exercisers commonly lose 1-3 pounds of fluid from sweat per hour. This easily leads to
a loss of more that 2% of body weight in fluids. This small amount of fluid loss will diminish both mental and
physical capacity. And if muscle cells are not well-hydrated, protein synthesis is slowed, reducing the recovery
and growth of muscle tissue. Monitor your hydration status by checking the color of your urine. Drink enough
fluid so that your urine is pale yellow. Dark urine indicates dehydration.

When to eat:
Intense exercise can deplete your body’s stored carbohydrate (called glycogen). Your muscles are most
receptive to replenishing lost glycogen stores within the first 30 minutes to two hours after exercise. Getting
carbohydrates into your system within the first hour after exercise will help you refuel your muscles, getting them
ready to exercise again within hours. Some athletes don’t feel hungry right after heavy exercise. Try some juice
that is high in carbohydrates to replenish carbohydrates and lost fluids. When you are hungry, have a meal that
is high in carbohydrates and also includes protein and fat.

How much to eat:
Sports nutrition books recommend consuming at least 50-100 grams (200-400 calories) of carbohydrate within
two hours after hard exercise. Some research has indicated that consuming protein in addition to carbohydrates
immediately following exercise may aid recovery. Choose foods that are higher in carbohydrates along with
some protein.

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