Top nutrition tips to consider after exercise

What you fuel yourself with after exercise is just as important as the exercise itself! Here are a few nutrition tips to consider after exercise.

When thinking about recovery nutrition after exercise, it’s useful to consider the three R’s.

  • Refuel energy and glycogen stores with a source of carbohydrate
  • Repair muscle with a source of protein
  • Rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses

The advice below is generalised for the recreational exerciser. Specific nutrition requirements will differ depending on the level of intensity and duration of physical activity.

So, what does that look like in terms of a meal or snack?

Well, the amount of food your body needs for recovery depends on the length and intensity of your exercise. If you’re exercising multiple times a day, you need to fuel yourself quickly. The first 60 to 90 minutes after exercise is the most effective time for the body to replace carbohydrate and promote muscle repair. Try using your next main meal as your form of recovery nutrition, including the three Rs previously mentioned. If this isn’t possible, have a small snack until you are able to have your next main meal.

Here are a few carbohydrates and protein-rich suggestions that you might like to choose from:

  • A small bowl of muesli with yoghurt and a piece fruit; or
  • Lean meat, cheese and salad sandwich or wrap; or
  • 1-2 eggs or a small tin of baked beans on a piece of toast; or
  • Some dairy foods can provide each of these key components. They are a great carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolyte source. Try a fruit-based smoothie with a piece of fresh or frozen fruit, milk and/or yoghurt
  • Protein powders are not essential. The general population do not require protein powders, as protein needs can be met through food. In saying this, they can be convenient for people who struggle to get in food post-exercise.

Be sure to rehydrate to replace sweat losses by hydrating after exercise. While water should be the drink of choice for most people, sports drinks may also play a role if needing to ingest both carbohydrates and fluids/electrolytes at the same time.

Related: What to eat and drink during exercise

For personalised and tailored sports nutrition advice, find an Accredited Sports Dietitian near you.

Written by Carly Booth, Accredited Practising Dietitian from Nutrition Australia Qld a non-profit, community nutrition organisation that provides education, support and training to shape the health and wellbeing of our community to make informed food choices.

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