Nutrition Tips for Recovery

Proper nutrition is essential for recovery, whether your body is recuperating from intense training or an injury. After completing your training, it is crucial to recover to optimize the advantages of your training and kickstart your preparation for the next session. Employ these tips to aid in the recovery process for various activities.

Recovery — Replenish, Repair, Rehydrate

Carbohydrates are the body’s favoured and most effective source of fuel, and athletes need to replenish their carbohydrate stores after intense activity since they can only last for a few hours.

Repairing muscle involves breaking it down during activity. The consumption of high-quality protein can stimulate the repair and growth process of the muscle. It is recommended to consume protein after physical activity, as well as include it in every meal.

The body loses fluid when sweating, particularly during vigorous activity or in hot weather. Replenishing fluids and electrolytes through rehydration can restore the body’s fluid balance, enabling it to regulate temperature and function optimally. It is important to consume fluids until the weight lost from sweating is regained or until urine appears clear or pale, like lemonade. Consuming whole foods with water or opting for a sports drink can aid in replenishing lost electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium.


Although food is the recommended way to get nutrition, it can sometimes be difficult to meet all of your dietary requirements, especially when it comes to protein. Protein can be found in various food sources and can also be obtained through supplements like protein powders. In situations where time is limited or it is impractical to carry whole foods, consuming a whey protein shake that is NSF-certified and contains 20-40g of protein can be a convenient and effective approach. However, since many protein powders have low or no carbohydrates, it may be necessary to pair the protein-based supplement with carbohydrate sources like fruit, grains, or a sports drink.

The dietary needs of athletes will vary

Your dietary needs are influenced by the type and intensity of your activity, as well as your recovery time and overall goal. Make sure to include high-quality protein and nutrient-dense carbohydrates in each meal and snack.

Training involving low-intensity physical activities such as walking and jogging.

After engaging in light activity, there is no need to immediately begin the recovery process or consume excessive amounts of food. Stick to your regular meal routine, but make sure to incorporate lean protein and carbohydrates into each meal. Hydrate yourself as per your level of thirst.

High-intensity Training (requiring at least 24 hours to recover)

  • Replenish: Consume 0.5g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight within 2 hours after working out, to replace the glycogen (carbohydrates stored in muscle) that was used during training. For a 150 lb. athlete, that’s 75 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Repair: Consume 20-40 grams of high-quality protein (e.g., meat, fish, eggs, or dairy) within one hour of training to maximize muscle growth and repair.
  • Rehydrate: Consume 20-24 oz. (2.5-3 cups) per pound of body weight (sweat) lost.
  • Example: One cup of oatmeal with raisins, a large banana, and 8 oz. of Greek yoghurt with fluid.

Less than 8 hours is needed to recover from High-Intensity Training.

In situations where there is a limited amount of time between two consecutive days or tournament matches, it becomes crucial to rehydrate and replenish carbohydrates promptly. While protein plays a significant role in muscle repair, its digestion process can be slowed down, therefore it is advisable to avoid consuming protein when there are less than two hours between physical activities.

  • Replenish: Consume 0.5g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight every 1 to 2 hours after exercise for up to 4 to 6 hours.
  • Repair: If greater than 2 hours exist between sessions, consider adding a small portion of lean protein.
  • Rehydrate: Consume 20-24 oz. (2.5-3 cups) per pound of body weight (sweat) lost.
  • Example: 2-2.5 cups of chocolate milk 30 minutes after exercise. Then 1 to 2 hours later have a grilled chicken sandwich with fruit, apple sauce, and water or sports drink on the side.

Recovery from physical therapy

After experiencing a serious injury or undergoing surgery, the body undergoes considerable strain as the healing process places additional demands on the immune and metabolic systems for repair. Initially, physical activity may decrease to allow for healing, but it is crucial to remember that energy expenditure might still be high during this early recovery phase. Although some athletes might view this period as an opportunity to shed weight, it is important to supply the body with the necessary energy for optimal recovery. It is advisable to avoid drastic weight changes, as significant weight gain could lead to inflammation, while weight loss could hasten the loss of muscle mass. To facilitate healing and prevent muscle loss, it is recommended to consume 20-40 grams of protein with each meal and snack every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day. Including protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy in each meal is essential.

Physical Therapy in the Initial Phases.

Although energy expenditure may be relatively low during this period, it is still crucial to optimize the muscle protein response to treatment. It is recommended to ingest 20-40 grams of high-quality protein within an hour after therapy.

Physical therapy is demanding or complex.

To enhance the effectiveness of therapy, it is recommended to ingest 20-40 grams of top-notch protein within one hour after therapy. Despite the possibility of training not reaching the same intensity or duration as it did before the initial injury, it is still crucial to replenish carbohydrates. It is advisable to consume 0.25-0.50 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. To compensate for the amount of sweat lost, it is recommended to consume 20-24 oz. of fluid per pound of body weight.

How much is a serving?

Each serving of protein contains 7 grams.

  • Beans – (1/2 cup)
  • Beef – select or choice grade, round or loin cut (1 oz.)
  • Beef – ground 93/7 (1 oz.)
  • Cheese–string, low-fat
  • Chicken – white meat, skinless (1 oz.)
  • Cottage cheese (1/4 cup)
  • Egg (1)
  • Egg whites (2)
  • Fish – grilled, baked, or broiled (1 oz.)
  • Milk – 1% skim (1 cup)
  • Pork – loin, tenderloin, or chop (1 oz.)
  • Salmon (1 oz.)
  • Tuna – canned (1 oz.)
  • Turkey – ground 93/7 (1 oz.)
  • Turkey – white meat, lean (1 oz.)
  • Yoghurt* – Greek, plain or flavoured, non-fat or low-fat (1/3 cup)

Each serving of carbohydrates contains 15 grams.

  • 1 small fruit (1 cup or 1 tennis ball size)
  • Applesauce (1/2 cup)
  • Bagel – whole grain (1/4)
  • Beans – (1/2 cup)
  • Bread – whole grain (1 slide)
  • Cereal – whole grain (1/2 cup)
  • Crackers – 4 to 6
  • English muffin – whole grain (1/2)
  • Milk – 1% skim (1 cup)
  • Oatmeal – cooked (1/2 cup)
  • Pasta – whole grain, cooked (1/3 cup)
  • Potato – sweet (3 oz. or 1/2 cup)
  • Quinoa – cooked (1/3 cup)
  • Rice – whole grain, cooked (1/3 cup)
  • Tortilla – whole grain (6”)
  • Yoghurt – Greek, plain or flavoured, non-fat or low-fat (1/3 cup)

How important is recovery nutrition after exercise?

The significance of recovery nutrition relies on the kind and length of exercise that was recently done, the goals of body composition, and personal preferences. The objectives of recovery nutrition are to:

  • Appropriately refuel and rehydrate the body
  • Promote muscle repair and growth
  • Boost adaptation from the training session
  • Support immune function

If you engage in two or more training sessions in one day or have sessions that are close together, such as an evening session followed by an early morning session, proactive recovery nutrition becomes crucial. Nonetheless, if you exercise once a day or a few times a week, recovery nutrition remains significant, although you might be able to fulfil your nutritional needs by consuming your regular meals or snacks instead of adding more food.

What can happen if I get my recovery nutrition wrong?

  • Inadequate nutrition recovery, especially if training multiple times a day, can result in:
  • Increased fatigue (during training and at work or school)
  • Reduced performance at your next training session or event
  • Suboptimal gains from the session just completed
  • Increased muscle soreness

How soon after exercise should I be eating and drinking?

The process of rehydrating should start immediately after your training session or event. However, the importance of consuming carbohydrates and protein after exercise varies depending on the time until your next exercise session. Within the first 60-90 minutes after exercise, the body is most effective at replenishing carbohydrates, promoting muscle repair, and stimulating muscle growth. This process continues for approximately 12-24 hours. Therefore, if you have a short period between sessions, it is advisable to maximize your recovery within the first 60-90 minutes after finishing your exercise. Otherwise, you can incorporate your regular meal after the session as part of your recovery nutrition. For some individuals, it may be beneficial to split their recovery into two parts. They can have a small snack immediately after exercise to initiate the recovery process, followed by their next main meal to fully achieve their recovery goals.

What should I be eating after exercise?

In general, foods should take into account that everyone has different preferences for what they like to eat, variations in appetite, and what their stomach can comfortably digest after exercising.

  • Be rich in quality carbohydrates to replenish muscle fuel stores
  • Contain some lean protein to promote muscle repair
  • Include a source of fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate effectively

When it comes to what to eat after exercise, there is no definitive answer. However, dairy products like flavoured milk, smoothies, or fruit yoghurt can be a beneficial choice as they can fulfil all of your recovery goals by offering carbohydrates, protein, fluid, and electrolytes in one convenient option. Additionally, there are other alternatives that you may consider selecting.

  • Lean chicken and salad roll
  • Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
  • Fresh fruit salad topped with Greek yoghurt
  • Spaghetti with lean beef bolognese sauce
  • Chicken burrito with salad and cheese
  • Small tin of tuna on crackers plus a banana

What is the best fluid to drink after exercise?

The ideal fluid for exercise depends on what you are trying to achieve. If your main goal is to rehydrate after your workout, water or electrolyte drinks are a good choice. If you are also trying to meet your carbohydrate needs, sports drinks can be beneficial as they provide both carbohydrates and hydration. If you want a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes in one, dairy-based fluids like smoothies and flavoured milk are convenient options. While specialized protein powders and recovery shakes may be helpful for certain individuals in specific situations, most people can meet their recovery goals through regular foods and beverages.


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