Outpouring sweat, chest pounding heart beat.., with skipping breaths and bundle of towels…, one walks out of the exercise court towards the locker room from where the post-workout recovery should begin.

Although having a regular exercise routine is refreshing but immediately after a rigorous exercise session, one experiences mental exhaustion, physical energy depletion and dehydration. Thus, an ideal post-exercise recovery nutrition should include the three important ‘Rs’ of recovery that is, Refuel, Re-hydrate and Repair.

Refuel

The important aspects of refueling include when, what and how much to eat and drink which are collectively referred to as “Nutrient Timing” or the appropriate time at which nutrient should be administered into the body. 30 minutes post exercise, the muscles are most sensitive to nutrient uptake and this time period is considered crucial for replenishment of muscle stores, particularly glycogen.

Muscle glycogen forms a major source of energy for an aerobic exercise session and thus the need for glycogen replenishment holds utmost priority and maintaining a low carbohydrate diet might actually lead to performance deficits and cognitive mistakes.

Ideally, 1-1.5gms of high glycemic carbohydrates per kg ideal body weight, that is roughly around 75-90gms should be consumed. And before you think of all not so tasty processed options of corn flakes, breads and other cereal varieties. I would like to highlight our very own Indian carbohydrate recipes which not only taste better but are packed with many vital nutrients.

3-4 idli, a cup of suji upma, 2-3 utapam, 2 vegetable paratha and a cup of our very own ‘kaanda poha’ would serve the purpose. Teaming these with sambhar, dal chutney or curd.., gives a great deal of comprehensive replenishment.

Re-hydrate

Immediate marker of hydration levels is urine color and volume. Urine should be clear and in plentiful amount. It is recommended to check weight before and after training to keep a track of fluid losses. A loss of more than 2% body weight indicates inadequate fluid intake and unsafe hydration levels.

For every 0.4kg of change in weight (in terms of fluid loss) post rigorous exercise, about 600ml of fluids should be consumed. Restoring the loss of sodium is also important. Adequate amount of salt should be added to post exercise meals. Health drinks containing sodium can also be taken.

Repair

Various hormones during and post exercise stimulate catabolism (breakdown) of glycogen and fats for fuel. This effect continues for a considerable period of time post exercise as well and may lead to muscle breakdown in the absence of adequate nutrient intake. To repair and build muscle, it is recommended to take high-protein foods with good amount of leucine, as part of post exercise meal. Whey forms the most efficient post-workout protein because of its rapid release into the blood stream and its amino acid composition including leucine.

Adequate and timely consumption of good quality protein sensitizes whole-body protein synthesis and prevents excessive inflammation of muscles which implies that recovery nutrition should begin within the the first hour post exercise. Muscle tissue breakdown reduces as proper nutrient intake regulates the process of muscle repair and building. An important aspect which often gets overlooked is carbohydrate intake, which can decrease muscle breakdown in athletes, particularly those who do resistance training, benefit from a post-exercise meal that contains a balance of carbohydrates and protein.

However these three ‘Rs’are important part of any post-exercise nutrition. The amounts and type of proteins and carbohydrates may vary depending upon the type of sport or training one indulges in. To bounce back fresh and gain or build upon from the exercise routine one follows, it is quintessential to plan and follow a conventional post exercise nutrition therapy.

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Written by Pooja Lakhani