Optimizing Athletic Recovery: The Crucial Role of Post-Exercise Nutrition

Optimizing Athletic Recovery: The Crucial Role of Post-Exercise Nutrition

Fuel Your Game

Nutrition post-exercise is the crucial component in returning your body to its pre-exercise state. The higher your athletic goals, the more important quick recovery becomes so that you can complete more quality and quantity workouts in order to achieve a better performance.


Three Stages of Post-Exercise

-> 30 minutes post-exercise

-> Short term post-exercise (length of duration of workout session)

-> Long-term post-exercise


Each stage consists of different recommendations for optimal recovery. If you are an athlete that has multiple workout sessions a day, you may cycle back through Stage 1 and 2 before ending on Stage 3. That’s ok!


30 Minutes Post-Exercise

Timing is a critical component as reuptake of carbohydrate and repair of damaged muscles are two to three times as rapid during this small window of opportunity. There are five goals needing immediate attention post-workout. This may seem like a lot, but never fear, I have a homebrew for you at the ready!


Replenish Carbohydrate Stores.

If exercise >1 hr, use high glycemic carbohydrates (potatoes and rice) with lower glycemic carbohydrates (fruit) at a rate of 1.5-2 g per kg of body weight (about 0.75 g per lb of body weight).



Consume about 16 oz of fluid for every lb lost during exercise. You may not accomplish this in 30 minutes, just plan on continuing throughout the next few hours. Thirst also plays a role here, decrease fluid intake when thirst is quenched.


Resynthesize Protein with Amino Acids.

Muscle is broken down during exercise to create more glycogen for energy once carbohydrate stores are depleted. Consuming protein with high concentrations of branched-chain amino acids (best sources with high BCAA concentration are egg white powder, whey protein powder, and meats) along with carbohydrate, in a 4:1 – 5:1 ratio (60-75 g carb:15 g pro) will hasten muscle repair and diminish muscle soreness.


Replace Electrolytes.

Sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are the salts contained in cells and extracellular fluids which govern muscle contraction and relaxation as well as fluid level maintenance. In a dehydrated state post-workout, these electrolytes seem to be high in the body, but as hydration occurs, the salt concentrations are diluted and thus end up being lower than normal if they are not replaced. These are easy to replace by consuming fruit or fruit juice with a couple pinches of sodium. The most concentrated sources of electrolytes can be found in 1.5 cups of fresh cantaloupe or 12 oz of frozen apple juice.


Return Body to Alkaline State.

As one exercises, acidity in bodily fluids increases, which the body offsets by stripping nitrogen from muscles and calcium from the bones. This comes at great expense to the serious athlete as future performance is jeopardized while muscle and bone are compromised. Spare bone and muscle by using the fruits and veggies in the list below, which have a net alkaline effect on the blood.


Alkaline Fruits


Black Currants











Alkaline Vegetables















Green Peppers




So how do you achieve all five of these goals? Here is a homebrew smoothie recipe based on your body weight for your convenience and wallet!



Juice (0.15oz/kg body weight)

EX: 150# person/2.2 = 68.2kg * 0.15 oz/kg = 10 oz Juice

Glucose (0.025tabs/kg body weight)

EX: 150# person/2.2 = 68.2kg * 0.025 tabs/kg = 1.7 tabs round up to 2 glucose tabs

Alkaline Fruit or Veg (0.015 cups/kg body weight) – from list above

EX: 150# person/2.2 = 68.2kg * 0.015 cups/kg = 1 cup alkaline fruit

Protein Powder (0.35g/kg body weight)

EX: 150# person/2.2 = 68.2kg * 0.35 g/kg = 24 g protein (usually 1 scoop, check your label and estimate accordingly)

Couple pinches sodium


Short Term Post-Exercise

This recovery period should match the length of the entire workout. During this stage, the focus is to have a small meal consisting of solid foods.


Continue to take in carbohydrates at 1.5-2 g/kg per hour from either potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, or dried fruit.

Consume lean protein using the same 4:1 – 5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (1.75g/kg carbohydrate; 0.45 g/kg protein) from hard boiled eggs, deli-sliced turkey breast, tuna salad, or fish.

Continue to eat fruits and vegetables to replace electrolytes and enhance alkalinity.


An example Stage 2 meal may look like these:

2 cups spinach leaves, ½ cup dried fruit, 1.5 oz canned tuna (~50 g carb; 10 g pro)

½ large sweet potato, 2 oz salmon, ½ cup pineapple ( ~75 g carb; 15 g pro)

½ cup baked French fries, 1 hard boiled egg, ½ cup apple juice (~30 g carb ; 7 g pro)

1.5 oz sliced deli meat, ½ cup grapes, ½ cup carrots, 4 oz orange juice (~40 g carb; 10 g pro)


Drink to thirst!


Long Term Post-Exercise

This recovery period should continue throughout the rest of the day, evening, and night to optimize your recovery. During this stage, the focus is to continue to replenish and recover by taking good care of yourself!!



-> Meals - Eat healthy whole foods (fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats) and keep your plate colorful to enhance cellular regeneration and protection.

-> Vegetables and Fruits - have key anti-inflammatory and immune boosting agents to maximize cellular growth.

-> Lean protein - essential amino acids to support anabolism, stave off muscle breakdown, and feed tissue repair.

-> Sleep is crucial to muscle growth. Ensure you are getting a solid 8 hours post long-term intense exercise to properly recover and repair.


Bon appetite!