Eating to win: activity, diet and weight control
Eating to win: activity, diet and weight control

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5.4 Eating post-exercise

Refuelling after exercise is vital to repair the damage caused by the exercise session and to enable the body to be in an optimum state for the next training session. The length of time that recovery will take depends on the following:

  • how depleted the glycogen stores have become
  • the amount of muscle damage
  • the timing of the post-exercise meal.

The important aspect of post-exercise recovery is the replacement of carbohydrate.The ACSM (2016) recommends that in situations with less than eight hours of recovery between two fuel demanding sessions an athlete should consume 1–1.2 g carbohydrate/kg bodyweight per hour for the first four hours and then resume daily fuel needs after this period.

In order to give the muscles access to glucose quickly, it is recommended that some high GI carbohydrates are eaten during this period, particularly in the first two hours. This is why athletes might consume foods such as Jaffa cakes, sports drinks, crunch bars, bagels with jam and raisins immediately after exercise.

Research shows that muscle protein turnover is highest following exercise and it is therefore important to consume sufficient protein to repair and build new muscle. A range of 1.2–2.0 g protein/kg bodyweight per day should be consumed (ACSM, 2016). If possible, protein should be consumed from animal sources rather than plant-based sources because they have better absorption rates. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, eggs and milk.

Having examined the importance of nutrition and nutritional recommendations for exercise performance, you will now explore the essential concept of hydration.

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