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Nutrition for Optimal Exercise Recovery

Recovery is one of the most important aspects of any serious athleteís 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.

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


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 bodyís 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 donít 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.


Other high carbohydrate foods

Try these tips for an optimal recovery after training and competition

* also has protein

If you are a registered University of Illinois student and you have questions or concerns,
or need to make an appointment, please call: Dial-A-Nurse at 333-2700


If you are concerned about any difference in your treatment plan and the information in this handout,

you are advised to contact your health care provider.


Visit the McKinley Health Center Web site at:

HEd. III-189

© The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2008.



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