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May 11, 2011

Dos and don'ts for post-workout meal

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthful eating. This week, dietetic intern Lauren Martin (pictured) weighs in on post-workout meals.

While it is important to fuel your body with the right foods throughout the day, perhaps the most important time to pay attention to what you eat is after a workout. Nutrition plays a role in replacing glycogen stores, preventing fatigue and recovering for future workouts. When you work out, your body burns calories, loses electrolytes through sweat and breaks down muscle tissue. It is important to refuel your body after exercise to replace the glycogen, protein and fluid lost.

What to look for

Within the 30 minutes following a workout, your body needs three things: Fluids to replace the water and electrolytes your body loses in your sweat. For each pound you lose from exercise, you need 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. Protein to repair the muscle tissue broken down during a workout and to stimulate new tissue development. Only a small amount of protein is needed after a workout to enhance glycogen replacement and provide the amino acids needed for the repair of muscle tissues. While a serious weight lifters has higher protein needs than someone running for an hour, a balance of protein with carbohydrates will help recovery.

Carbohydrates to replenish the fuel (glycogen) used by your muscles. Within 30 minutes after exercise, you need 0.5 to -0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight to adequately replace the glycogen lost. For example, after 60 minutes of vigorous exercise, a 150-pound person might need as many as 75 grams of carbohydrate.

What to avoid

Fat. While fat is an important part of the diet, it slows digestion. Right after a workout, you do not want to slow the digestion of carbs and protein. Try to choose snacks and meals that are relatively low to moderate in fat content. Simple sugars and sweetened beverages, unless you are working out vigorously for more than 60 minutes. Otherwise you are just adding back empty calories that are not helping your body recover adequately.

Snack and meal ideas

Low-fat chocolate milk: An easy, delicious way to replenish fluid, carbs and protein. Low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Yogurt provides a good source of both protein and carbs. Homemade fruit smoothie made up of yogurt, berries and low-fat milk. This is a combination of the first two suggestions. You again get all three things you body needs post-workout. Stir-fried chicken breast with fresh vegetables over brown rice. This is great if you want to eat more of a meal after a workout. The chicken is a good source of protein, and the rice is a healthful source of carbs, fiber and B vitamins. Pita with turkey and hummus and a glass of low-fat milk. The pita provides your carbs, while the turkey and hummus give you protein. The milk gives you all three.

For more information, check out: Look under “For the public,” “Food and nutrition topics” and then “Sports nutrition.”

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition


so what happens if you *don't* drink water and eat protein and carbs after a workout? do you get sick? do you set yourself up for injury?

This is a great reminder about healthy eating post workout. It's easy to forget when you come from the gym or studio and you're ravenous. Especially when it's best to practice yoga on an empty stomach, you want to eat the walls when you're done.

Thanks Kim for this great article. I am constantly trying to educate my personal training clients about exercise nutrition. There is so much misinformation out there! You've done a great job spelling things out here. Keep up the good work!

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About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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