Roxanne E. Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietitian and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. An athlete's body can only be fully ready for the next workout or game if its glycogen and fluid stores are completely replenished.
That's why when an athlete finishes exercising they need to have a plan for their post-exercise nutrition. Muscles are most receptive to fill within 15 minutes after exercise. So you don't want to wait three hours to replenish what was burned. Replacement of glycogen is not a fast process. It can take 20-24 hours post exercise for the body to replenish muscle glycogen stores maximally.
Post exercise the goal is to drink or eat about 0.
5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight within the first two hours post exercise. This amount should be repeated then within two hours. So let's look at an example.
Say, you're a 110 pound athlete. You want to multiply 110 by 0.
5 grams of carbohydrate per pound. That equals 55 grams. Now one gram of carbohydrate provides about four calories. So the athlete needs about 220 calories from carbohydrates. You take 55 grams times 4 and that's 220.
One serving of grains or fruits in the MyPlate resources is equal to about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Most commonly referenced portions of carb rich foods are in about 15 grams portions. Some examples of foods that equal about 15 grams of carbohydrates include a small apple or a handful of pretzels. So for 55 grams the athlete could eat more of some of these items or combine them, combine the apple and the pretzels.
Now one thing you do not want to do is fill up one empty calorie carbohydrates like candy. You want to make the carbohydrate grams and calories count by ensuring their quality food sources. That can also help replenish needed vitamins and minerals.
Some studies also suggest that there maybe a role for proteins in post exercise recovery. A mix of carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 ratio post exercise may replenish muscle glycogen more rapidly and promote muscle tissue repair. Some examples of post exercise replenishment with protein include, a whole sandwich made with lean meat plus a piece of fruit or maybe a yogurt parfait with fruit and granola. Another example is low-fat cheese with crackers and grapes.
Now one last point. A fruit's glycemic index indicates its ability to raise blood sugar. The higher the Glycemic Index the more quickly the food tends to raise blood sugar. Moderate to high Glycemic Index foods tend to help replenish glycogen stores faster. Grains and fruits tend to have a higher Glycemic Index compared to vegetables and dairy foods. Some foods that fit into the medium glycemic category include cantaloupe, spaghetti, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes. Some foods that are in the high glycemic category include pancakes, dry fruit, and even juice.
So when the athlete is done working out use the equation to determine the volume of carbs needed to be replenished or seek the guidance of a sports nutrition expert by visiting the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics website at eatright.