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Dietitians Dish: Proper nutrition needed to avoid fatigue

April 26, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 26, 2010 at 11:27 p.m.


By Kendra Blaschke

After an exhausting workout, the last thing on your mind is food; however, making sure you are getting the right foods and at the right time following a workout or game is imperative for proper muscle recovery.

Lack of proper nutrition following strenuous training can lead to chronic fatigue, increased risk of injury and overall decreased performance.

This is particularly important for those who have multiple workouts per day. For instance, those who regularly participate in sports with multiple games per day, like basketball or soccer tournaments, or even the aerobics instructor who has several classes per day needs to maximize recovery.

It is less critical for those 'weekend warriors' or anyone who has more than a day between intense workouts, as they are able to rest their muscles and replenish their glycogen stores through food intake throughout the day.

Research has shown that consuming a good source of carbohydrates and protein after an intense workout aids in muscle repair, stimulation of new muscle and helps replace glycogen stores, which act as fuel during workouts.

Scientific studies have also shown that the timing is important due to the fact that carbohydrates consumed within the first 15 to 30 minutes post-exercise results in higher glycogen levels than when consumed two hours after.

The American Dietetic Association along with the American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming a good source of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein within the first 30 minutes following exercise and again every two hours for four to six hours. For the average athlete, this translates into:

Turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread

An egg and a slice of whole-grain toast

A cup of yogurt and a handful of granola

Cottage cheese and fruit

An apple with peanut butter

A banana and a whole-grain cereal

Boiled egg and a bowl of whole grain cereal and milk

Graham crackers and peanut butter

If you cannot tolerate solid food immediately after an intense workout, liquids can also provide the carbohydrate and protein your body needs. Try liquids like chocolate milk, a smoothie made with milk and yogurt or even a protein shake mixed with milk.

Just keep in mind that it is recommended that you consume a full meal containing carbohydrates and protein within the first two hours following a workout.

While it's imperative to maintain good nutrition for optimal performance, it is also very important to rehydrate following each workout as dehydration also decreases performance.

Weigh yourself before and after exercise and consume about 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost.

Kendra Blaschke is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Master of Science in nutrition. Send questions or comments to dietitians @vicad.com.

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