How to Refuel Post-exercise

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After a long and hard workout, what do you drink to help you recover and refuel?  Nothing, you say? Well then, you best read on.

Many of us know to fuel up before we exercise, but we forget how important it is to replenish all that used up energy after we exercise. Getting the right foods into your body could mean the difference between reaping the full benefits of your workout versus letting it all go to waste.

Here are 4 key nutrients to include in your post-exercise drink or meal:

Carbohydrate – this is the main fuel for your cells. It is stored by your body in the form of glycogen and used for energy by your muscles to produce movement.  After exercise, your glycogen stores will be depleted, which means you will need to up your carb intake to replenish your energy reserves.  Glycogen stores are most rapid during the first 2 hours post-exercise, so it’s best to get your carbohydrate intake during this time period.  How much?  The recommended amount is 1 g/kg of body weight.

Protein – combining protein with your carbohydrate intake will increase the efficiency of glycogen recovery compared to consuming carbohydrate on its own.  How does that work? Well, the two nutrients work together to stimulate a greater output of insulin which increases the uptake of glucose and amino acids into the muscle cells, thereby promoting glycogen and protein synthesis.  Protein is also required for muscle formation and growth.  So after resistance or endurance exercise, you’ll want to get 15-20 g of protein to maximize muscle repair.

Electrolytes – when you sweat during exercise, you lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium.  Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that play a vital role in nerve transmission and muscle contraction.  They are also essential for the maintenance of water balance and distribution between cells, and for maintaining optimal pH balance.  A loss of electrolytes can lead to an imbalance which can result in muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, and mental confusion.  Most sports drinks are enhanced with the electrolytes you need for recovery, however they also come with additives and food colouring.  Instead, choose pure coconut water, which is high in potassium, and add some sea salt.

Antioxidants – exercising increases your body’s production of free-radicals, which are molecules that cause cellular deterioration of your healthy cells.  Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize these free-radicals, preventing them from causing damage to your cells.  Fruits and vegetables like berries, pomegranate, or kale, are packed with antioxidants that help your body to repair and maintain good health.

The best way to put this all together?  In a smoothie.  Create your own, or try mine:

1 banana (frozen)
½ cup organic mixed berries (frozen)
½ cup organic tofu
1 ½ cups coconut water (I used O.N.E. Coconut Water)
A pinch of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until desired consistency.

Got a post-workout drink or meal to share?  Leave it in the comment box.  I’d love to try it!

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