Recovering from a daily workout isn't just about resting. Experts also recommend athletes have a snack or some sort of drink that has calories from carbohydrates and protein.
The reason, coaches and nutritional experts say, is so muscles can replenish stored energy levels and also have a little bit of protein available to repair micro tears in tissues.
"If you are doing the kind of training that requires you to get up the next day again (to do another workout,) your ability to recover is essential to your success," said Maria Simone, an Absecon-based triathlete and endurance sports coach.
The trick, however, is to make sure you eat or drink something within 30 minutes of your workout, Simone said. During that first 30 minutes your body is most receptive to the extra nutrients needed to restore depleted muscle energy and repair muscle fibers.
Muscles store energy from the food you eat as glycogen. "When you're exercising you're using all the energy stored in your muscles," said Sarah Ruppert, a fitness specialist at the AtlantiCare LifeCenter in Egg Harbor Township.
The faster you restore that glycogen, the less soreness you are going to have and the better you will be able to perform the next day, Simone said.
However, just eating and drinking quickly after a workout isn't enough. Different amounts of protein are needed for different types of activity and more carbohydrates are needed for more intense activity.
"If you have too much protein, it impacts how the glycogen gets stored," Simone said. So a high-protein recovery drink is not recommended after a running, swimming, cycling or high intensity aerobic workout.
However, for workouts that involve high levels of weight training, Ruppert said, high-protein shakes or snacks is better because you have used less muscle energy, but are more likely to have microscopic tears in muscle fibers.
"This is really going to be depending on your intensity level," Ruppert said.
However, protein shakes and other products not only can be expensive, they may not work as well as real food.
"The big thing right now is chocolate milk," Ruppert said.
The trick, however, is to ensure you don't take in way more calories than is needed, Ruppert said. If you complete only a short workout, less than 30 minutes, half of the protein shake or a banana is more than enough.
"If you're working out shorter periods of time, with less intensity, I think you can just time your meals after your workout," Simone said. "You don't want your recovery fueling to make you gain unnecessary weight."
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