So now that we know what to eat to fuel our exercise, what about recovery foods? Recovery snacks and foods are possibly even better than pre-exercise snacks because you have now done the hard work (the exercise) and now all that is left to do is to deliver some delicious nutrition to your hard working body!

If you read my post last week (what to eat before your workout) you will know that one size does not fit all, and the same is true for recovery nutrition. How much you eat and what foods you choose will depend a lot on what your goals are, your body composition, how long you have been exercising for, what kind of exercise you have been doing and when your next exercise session will be. Again, there are a few principles we can apply that are similar for everyone and to help you on your way.

Goals of post-exercise nutrition

Replace glycogen stores with carbohydrates that have been used during exercise. If this is not sufficient, adequate glycogen synthesis may be prohibited, leaving you feeling fatigued and unable to perform your best in your next exercise session. There are some guidelines around how many g/kg CHO/hour is needed for optimal replenishment of glycogen stores, but again that goes beyond the scope of this post and requires individualised assesment.

Provide protein to help with muscle repair and growth.

Replenish lost fluids and electrolytes that have been depleted through sweating.

Try to have a post workout snack within 30-60 minutes of finishing exercise, however it isn’t crucial if you miss this window.

Provide adequate nutrients to combat illness. During intensive training we become immuno-suppressed, leaving us more at risk of getting sick. Ensure adequate carbohydrate intake post exercise to alleviate stress on the immune system. Other nutrients thought to help are vitamins C and E as well as glutamine and zinc.

Appropriate snack choices

1x 250ml carton of chocolate milk

Smoothie – try one of my great tasting smoothie creations!

Banana and bursting blueberry smoothie

Find the recipe here

Scroggin/ trail mix –  Make your own to suit individual likes. Be sure to  include almonds -which are a good source of healthy fats, vitamin E and protein. Other inclusions you might like to try are dried fruit mixes, chocolate chips and other nuts and seeds

Yoghurt, fruit and seed mix e.g. 1 medium piece of fruit with 1 pottle of yoghurt or 150g Greek yoghurt and sprinkle of seeds (here I used rhubarb)

rhubarb pudding

Cottage cheese with fruit and almonds e.g. 1 medium piece of fruit with 100g cottage cheese and 10 almonds

Cereal with fruit, milk or yoghurt e.g 1 serve of cereal/ muesli with 1 medium fruit and low fat milk or yoghurt

Meat/ egg sandwich e.g. 2 slices of wholegrain bread (white bread would be acceptable if you struggle with GI upset immediately following exercise) with 50g roast beef/ chicken etc or 1 egg

Banana and nut butter e.g. 1 banana cut into slices with nut butter sandwiched between

banana pb snack

Rice cakes with nut butter and banana e.g. 2-3 rice cakes with a spread of nut butter and banana sliced on top

Protein bars – I don’t recommend these for everybody. They can be useful when you need something portable, but again if the goal is weight loss, be careful about the total calorie content of some of these bars. They are often also extremely processed, try to choose real food wherever possible!

Common questions

Do I need to have a snack if I am about to eat a meal?

Again it tends to depend on what your goals are, the intensity of your training schedule etc etc, however if you have just finished an evening workout and you are heading home to cook a main meal, it is unlikely that you would need to have a snack before you got home as well. If you are likely to get stuck in traffic on the way home, having a re-sealable bag of something like scroggin mix could be helpful to tide you over. Just make sure that if you are trying to lose weight you don’t end up over eating and ruining all the hard work you just did. If you must have a snack maybe have a smaller portion at dinner time.

Help! It’s 65 minutes after I finished my workout, and I haven’t eaten yet, will I lose all my gains??

Don’t panic. It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get that protein shake down you before you have stopped sweating. In the untrained body the ‘anabolic window’ (the window of time when the muscles repair and grow) ingestion of protein is beneficial up to 24 and even 48 hours post resistance training.

Helpful tips

If your goal is weight loss, be careful when choosing a snack. You don’t want to end up eating more than what you just burned exercising. Make sure snack foods are incorporated into your daily food allowance, not on top of.

When training at intense levels, individuals often have no appetite, and frequently skip meals or are too tired to eat. This can lead to overall energy deficit and poor performance. If you have no appetite after training, try easy to digest liquid snacks, such as a smoothie, or liquid breakfast foods.

Some also experience gastrointestinal discomfort post exercise, and again liquid alternatives may be helpful here.

With all this talk of exercise and food I remember that I haven’t posted about my gym challenges for a while. Let me update you. Last week we had an isometric challenge. We had to hold seven different positions (such as a plank or wall sit) for as long as possible, and add up the times for your final total. Apparently I blitzed it and was planking, wall sitting and lunging for over an hour! Boy I had some sore legs that week.

I was expecting our last challenge of the series to be something strength based, which I wouldn’t have a hope of winning, but I was very wrong. My PT is heading to Denver, Colorado for the World Lacrosse Championships which is 1608m above sea level, so our challenge was to also get to that height as soon as possible.  Well that one was easy!! I had a free morning and finished my climb on Tuesday. I couldn’t believe it, I had won the gym challenge series!! What a great way to finish an amazing couple of years training with a great guy. All the best for the World Lacrosse Championships, Casey!

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