Fuel Up to Help Your Body Recover

Many top athletes consider their bodies to be like machines, engines that need fuel to run at an optimal level. How you fuel your body post-workout or post-game is an important part of your body's recovery process and can help you become a faster, stronger, healthier player.

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian with the Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Center, works with athletes of all ages and even professional football players. Goodson says athletes have a two-hour window of opportunity post-workout, when the body has the ability to absorb nutrients faster in order to recover, especially in the first 30-45 minutes. She stresses that good sports nutrition helps stop the breakdown of muscle fibers that naturally occurs during a workout. Providing the body with proper carbohydrate and protein helps to replenish energy stores and repair muscle damage.

“Recovery is made up of '3 R’s:' Replenish, Rebuild, Rehydrate," Goodson said. "Replenish means you need carbohydrates to replace energy stores post-workout. Rebuild indicates that you need protein to help your muscles repair and recover. Rehydrate means you need to replace the fluid lost in sweat. All three are key to proper post-workout nutrition.”

Goodson offers the following tips to athletes post-workouts:

Eat up! Within 45 minutes of finishing a workout or game, athletes should eat a blend of carbohydrates and protein with little to no fat. Examples include: low-fat chocolate milk, a granola bar and eight ounces low-fat milk, low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and honey, or even a protein shake, such as Muscle Milk® ready-to-drink shake.

Stay hydrated. Players should drink 16 ounces of fluid (water or sports drink) for every pound lost during exercise. Did you sweat off three pounds? Then you should take in 48 ounces of fluid post-practice. If recovery is needed in a shorter period of time (think two-a-day workouts), up the amount to 24 ounces of fluid per pound lost.

Keep it going. Within two hours of a game or workout, athletes should have a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and some fat (keeping it low-fat). The amount of nutrition really depends on the size of the athlete, but here are some healthy meal examples:

  • Whole-wheat turkey sandwich with low-fat cheese and veggies, whole-wheat crackers and fruit
  • Grilled chicken, one to two cups of pasta with marinara sauce, veggies and one whole-wheat roll
  • Pan-seared or grilled fish with a large sweet potato, salad with light dressing and one piece of fruit

To learn more about the Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Center, please visit TexasHealth.org/Sports-Medicine.