What to eat for recovery

Eating for Recovery and Reduction in Muscle Soreness

Recovery is a challenge for every person who is training for prolonged periods, or competing in a program that involves multiple disciplines of training. Between each workout, the body needs to adapt to the stress and energy requirements. 

Recovery involves the replenishment of muscle glycogen stores and consuming the food needed to create new muscle protein and red blood cells as part of the repair.

Muscle glycogen is the fuel used by the body during moderate and high intensity exercise. If we inadequately replace glycogen stores post workout, our performance will be compromised with each return session.

In the 45 minutes following a workout, it is recommended that we consume anywhere from 0.5– 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This period of time is when muscle glycogen will replenish at its greatest rate. The higher quantities of carbohydrate are only required in high intensity and prolonged exercise bouts from the more experienced trainer.

Both resistance and endurance trainers will also benefit from an intake of 15-25g of protein in the first hour after exercise. Be sure to include the above recommendations for carbohydrates to achieve optimal recovery.

Foods that can assist in recovery include:

  • Peanut butter & honey sandwich: Sounds too good to be true and this is commonly true. After a high intensity workout, and remembering we are aiming for recovery, not fat loss, this cheeky little snack contains approximately 400 calories, made up of over 60 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat. 
  • Protein snack bars: Most protein bars contain a good serve of carbohydrates to kick start the muscle glycogen refuel as well as a muscle sparing or repairing quantity of protein. These are generally low in calories, up to 250, and can be used as a convenient pre or post training snack.
  • Meal replacement drink: Similar to the protein bar, these are readily available and a convenient snack post training. Ensure to stick to the shakes that have under 250 calories, made up of at least 30 grams of carbohydrate and at least 20 grams of protein.
  • Fruit smoothies: Remember, the key to these is to keep it small and simple. A banana and strawberry shake with low fat yoghurt and skim milk is the best way to go for a post workout snack. Keep it under 250 calories.
  • Pineapple: Although no protein will be found, if we are looking to replenish muscle glycogen, then pineapple is close to number 1. It has a high GI rating and is relatively low in calories. Remember to add protein soon after in the form of lean meats, dairy, or protein supplementation.
  • Banana: Much the same as the pineapple, a banana is full of carbohydrates to help replenish muscle glycogen. Bananas are also high in potassium, reducing muscle soreness and cramping.

Reference: SportAus - Australian Sports Commission (AIS)