Richard Stockton College Athletic Training

Sports Nutrition Newsletter
A periodic Newsletter that addresses the Nutritional aspects
of athletic competition.

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Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW, is Richard Stockton College's campus nutritionist. She obtained her BS in Food and Nutriton from the Univ. of Delaware and her Master's in Nutrition from Penn State Univ.

She provides individual, confidential nutritional counseling to students. Her service is free for RSC students. For appointments call extension 5740. Nancy Brinch can be contacted at

Nutrition for Recovery?

By Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW

After a hard workout or a strenuous competition an athlete must replace fluids as well as muscle and liver glycogen that were lost during exercise. Just as proper nutrition before exercise improves performance, carefully choosing foods and fluids after exercise can speed recovery for the next workout. This is especially important for 1) anyone participating in heavy daily training, 2) athletes who do two or more workouts daily, and 3) those involved in competitions with multiple events.

Why is eating properly after exercise so important?

Hormonal and enzymatic changes that enhance glucose uptake by muscle and liver cells are elevated immediately after exercise. With optimal carbohydrate intake glycogen stores are replenished at 5 - 7% an hour. It can take up to 15 to 20 hours to completely restore depleted stores. Eating to replace these stores is necessary for optimal performance in a subsequent event.

Nutrition Strategy:

•Begin consuming carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages within 15 minutes after a workout when the enzymes necessary for the production of glycogen are most active.

•Aim for a consumption of 0.5 gram of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight every two hours for six to eight hours. For example, a person who weighs 150 pounds should consume 75 grams of carbohydrate every two hours for six to eight hours after exercise:

150 pounds X 0.5 grams carbohydrate/pound = 75 grams carbohydrate

This person should consume 75 grams of carbohydrate (300 calories from carbohydrate) in the first two hours post exercise. Two hours later this person should eat another 75 grams of carbohydrate.

•3 - 5 grams of carbohydrate per pound should be consumed over a 24-hour period after strenuous exercise.

This strategy is not difficult to follow because your body will want this amount of carbohydrate - and perhaps more. If you have been exercising strenuously you will be very hungry. Consuming more than this amount is fine if your body needs the calories, but consuming more than this amount of carbohydrate will not speed up the recovery process.

What kinds of carbohydrates are best?

Both liquid and solid sources of carbohydrate will replenish glycogen stores equally well. Carbohydrate sources with a high glycemic index are able to raise blood glucose levels quickly, thereby replenishing glycogen stores faster. These are foods that can be digested quickly, thus raising blood glucose levels rapidly. (See the December, 2002 issue of the Sports Nutrition Newsletter, "Carbohydrates Fuel Performance.") High glycemic index carbohydrates include most breads, bagels, many cereals (i.e. cornflakes, raisin bran), crackers, white potatoes, rice, fruit juice, bananas, and sports drinks.

What about protein?

Many studies have been conducted to determine whether eating protein along with carbohydrate will enhance glycogen storage. Some studies show a benefit, but others do not. Consuming protein along with carbohydrate does not impair glycogen storage. This combination might enhance glycogen synthesis because protein stimulates the action of insulin, just as carbohydrates do. Insulin is a hormone that transports glucose from the blood into muscles. Protein does provide essential amino acids that are necessary for muscle repair. Athletes must consume adequate protein (see January, 2003 issue of the Sports Nutrition Newsletter, "Protein: Power or Propaganda?"), so it should be included in recovery meals, and it can be included in recovery snacks.

Examples of recovery snacks:
These snacks each provide 80 grams of carbohydrate:

•8-ounce fruit yogurt, 1 granola bar, and 16 ounces sports drink
•1 cup of raisin bran, 8 ounces of milk and 1 banana
•Bagel and 16 ounces of orange juice
•Clif bar and 8 ounces of fruit juice


Replenishing fluids after exercise is a top dietary priority. You can determine how much fluid you lose during exercise by weighing yourself before and after a workout. One pound of sweat loss represents a loss of 16 ounces of body fluid. You should drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight you lose during exercise. You can replace this fluid by drinking water, juices, sports drinks and eating watery foods like watermelon, grapes, yogurt and soups. Remember you also lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, so a mixture of water and sports drinks to rehydrate will replace electrolytes as well as fluid. Lack of potassium and sodium in the body can cause cramping.

An optimal recovery diet is important for the athlete striving to reach peak performance levels. Planning ahead to be sure the appropriate foods and beverages are available after a workout or competition can make it easier to consume the carbohydrate necessary to replace spent glycogen stores.

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