For best results and recovery, you need to be mindful of what you eat and drink after exercise. A good diet post exercise speeds up your recovery and enables you to train consistently without feeling tired the next day. When you take in the right food, your muscle and tissue repair process is boosted as you replenish the lost glucose stores and re-hydrate yourself.
Hydration post exercise
Your first priority after exercising should be replenishing the lost fluids. To determine how much fluid is lost, weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every pound that you lose, you must drink 20 to 24 ounces (3 cups) of water or sports drink. If you have forgotten to weigh yourself, you can check the color of your urine. It needs to be clear in color. If it is concentrated or dark in color, it is a sign that you are dehydrated and need to drink more water.
If you want your post exercise drink to be more than just water or a sports drink, you can opt for chocolate milk. This drink has the right combination of proteins and carbohydrates, which is essential for recovery. In fact, studies have shown that there is no difference between the recovery resulting from drinking chocolate milk and sports drinks. Chocolate milk is known to decrease the level of creatine kinase more than sports drinks, which is an advantage. Creatine kinase is an indicator of muscle damage.
The most vital thing is consuming carbohydrates after exercise within about 15 minutes so that you can restore the glycogen in your body. Glycogen is the main source of energy that is utilized during exercise. Further, you need to consume about 0.3 to 0.6 grams of carbohydrates for each pound of body weight post exercise and you need to do it within 2 hours. If you wait for a longer period, you risk storing just about 50% of the glycogens in your muscles.
Protein requirements post exercise
Proteins give you amino acids that are necessary to rebuild the muscle tissues that invariably get damaged as you do intense exercises for prolonged periods of time. Proteins also increase water absorption from the intestines and keep the muscles hydrated. Another important benefit of amino acids that you receive through proteins is strengthening of immune system where you develop stronger resistance to infections such as cold.
Maintain the best protein to carbohydrate ratio
It is believed that consuming carbohydrates and proteins at a 4:1 ratio is most ideal as it results in higher glucose stores in muscles than carbohydrates alone. But you need to be careful as to the amount of proteins that you consume, as more protein can inhibit rehydration and replenishment of glycogen. Most sports recovery drinks conform to this ratio but if you find them too expensive to consume daily, you have other options.
Recovery food that you can prepare at home
You can eat one medium-size banana with a glass of milk but make sure that the milk is low fat. A bowl of granola with a one cup of low-fat milk also serves the purpose. If you like yogurt, you can mix it to half a cup of fresh berries. If you want something that is a little more substantial, try almond butter smeared on whole wheat toasts. You can also consume your regular bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk.
You can also prepare a recovery smoothie yourself. Just add a banana, a cup of strawberries, 3 egg yolks, a cup of rolled oats, quarter cup of wheat germ, 2 cups of milk (fat-free), and a quarter cup of plain, nonfat yogurt. Put these in a blender to puree until smooth, add ice, and puree again. If you do not have enough time for this, just consume raw eggs along with a scoop of protein powder. But choose whey protein (as it is easily digestible) instead of soy protein.*
* Click here to find out more information on how to consume raw eggs safely.