The food you eat throughout the day is, of course, very important. However, the food you eat after a workout may be even more important. Your body reacts to food after a workout differently than it would throughout the rest of the day. When you consume particular nutrients post-workout, you can improve body composition, recovery, and overall performance.
There are three goals for post-workout nutrition: replenish glycogen stores, decrease muscle breakdown, and increase protein synthesis. If the three of these goals are met, you will replenish your energy stores, increase muscle size and quality, and repair the damage put on the body from a workout.
To begin with, timing is a key factor in post-workout recovery nutrition. There is a window of opportunity to ingest the proper nutrients post workout. The window is immediately after a workout is completed up to two hours post-workout. If you get proper nutrients in this window, you will have optimal benefits from what you eat. If you delay for only an hour or two after this window, you will not see nearly the benefits you may be hoping for.
To be on track to reach your 3 goals for post-workout nutrition, you want to ingest foods with 30 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein, per hour of exercise. If you continue exercise for more than an hour, it may beneficial to start ingesting nutrients beginning into the second hour of exercise. A few good choices to try… A bowl of whole grain cereal and milk, greek yogurt and granola, apples with peanut butter, chicken & rice, plus protein shakes and nutrition bars when you need something quick and easy.
Remember, only purposeful exercise needs a post-workout recovery meal/drink. If you are taking a stroll down the road, taking a leisurely bike ride, or carrying boxes for moving day, you do not need a post-workout recovery meal.