Recovery Nutrition for Intense Exercise

It is late afternoon and the football team just finished a hardcore strengthening session in the weight room. The players leave exhausted and are eager to rest before coming back to train hard the next day. They drink a little water, nibble on snacks and hurry home.

In reality, few players eat a balanced meal for dinner.

Fast forward to the next day’s workout and players are fatigued and struggle to execute drills or maintain mental focus. Some miss the last set due to muscle cramping. Excuses will be made, yet no one knows why their performance suffered—they completely ignored recovery nutrition.

Recovery nutrition is best thought of as a window of opportunity. Research shows that within approximately 30 minutes after intense exercise, the body optimizes its ability to replenish energy stores. This is also a critical time because the body instigates muscle protein synthesis for muscle tissue recovery and repair and replenishes fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat.

Post-activity eating and drinking is an essential component of athletic success and improving recovery nutrition is one of the easiest ways athletes can measurably boost their performance. Coaches don’t control what happens after students leave the locker room, but they can encourage a routine as simple as drinking low-fat chocolate milk before high-fiving the team goodbye for the evening.

Low-fat chocolate milk is the perfect recovery food. Not only is it a good source of sodium—an important electrolyte lost in sweat—it is also rich in carbohydrates and high-quality protein.

Encourage your athletes to fuel up with low-fat chocolate milk after workouts, weight training, practices and games.

 Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LDRebecca_headshot_small