Sports Nutrition Timing:
Recovery After an Event

The training session/event is over! You did it! Recovery nutrition includes both fuel and hydration. You need to restore your fuel and hydration to safe and healthy levels so you'll be ready to hit the road again soon.

  • Does everyone need recovery nutrition?

  • It depends on the length and intensity of your workout session or event. A low to moderate intensity training session lasting less than 30 minutes does not likely require an immediate snack. Be sure to hydrate, but you can wait to your next planned meal. However, if you did not have a meal anytime before your session, then eat, but think about calorie balance.

    For intense training or a session lasting longer than one hour, recovery nutrition is a must. Ideally, you should eat and drink something immediately, or at least within 30 minutes of finishing the session (when your muscles and hormone levels are at their peak for soaking in the nutrition). After 2 hours the restoration process slows and you get less benefits. Now is NOT the time to worry about calories. You need to restore your glycogen stores and repair muscles. If you skimp on your nutrition here, you'll be less effective in your next training session or competition. If you are trying to lose weight, cut your calories at meals that won't effect training or performance.

  • What should I eat for recovery nutrition?

  • The general guideline is 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight immediately after the event. This adds up fast, but it's a good goal amount to consume. Also remember that the carbs can come from both sports drinks and food, so it can be done.

    100 pounds: 68 grams carbohydrate
    125 pounds: 85 grams carbohydrate
    150 pounds: 102 grams carbohydrate

    Use food labels or a list of the carb content of common foods and carbohydrate supplements for recovery .

    If you are competing in multiple events in the same day, like a tournament, you need to fuel and hydrate as best as is tolerated between events. Salty snacks that provide carbohydrate and protein are ideal. The salt helps in hydration, the carbs are fuel, and the protein may help set the hormonal balance that encourages glycogen storage. The protein can also begin the process of muscle repair.

    If you can’t eat right away, at least get carbs from a sports drink , and eat as soon as you are able. Don't forget to pack a recovery snack or meal if you have to drive back to your hotel or home.

    For fluids, drink enough over the next 6-8 hours to return to your pre-event body weight. If you were drinking according to your sweat rate , then your weight should not have changed dramatically.

    Once you are back to reality (you've cooled down and celebrated), eat and drink responsibly! Go for the whole foods now! Fat and fiber is better tolerated after an event than before.

    If this is the end of your competitive season, it's time to move into a new dimension of nutrition . You've worked hard and may have eliminated certains foods because of tolerance at the level you trained. You're used to eating a lot of calories, so you may need to slow down to maintain weight. Spend some time renewing yourself (and catching up on your paperwork and housework).

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    BEFORE or DURING an event.