Eating for recovery: Beware don't overfuel your body

First things first. How hard did you exercise? Ask yourself this question, as the answer is going to help you determine what goes into your mouth post your workout, because we don't want you to "over fuel" your body and just undo all the good work you have just done through exercise.

Did you know that over-fueling is just as detrimental as under fueling? If you are overeating or consuming the wrong types of foods before or after you train you may find yourself gaining body fat rather than enhancing your fitness muscle mass and reducing your body fat.


Top tips for post-workout nutrition and recovery.

For most of us, we usually exercise on an empty stomach thus your next main meal/snack shouldn't be too far away from when you finish your session. Keep this in mind. You don't want to overeat post your workout and muck up your breakfast/lunch/dinner meal.

Post a light /low-intensity training session
If you have just finished al light training session ie. moderate walk for an hour you most likely don't need anything apart from plain water and perhaps a piece of fruit. This should tie you over until your next meal which really shouldn't be too far away.

Post a medium intensity training session
If you have just done a medium cardio session of 30min of bike riding, swimming, or running and you have sweated then;

  • Drink plain water before during and after training.
  • Try and consume something within 20-30min after your session. This will assist in refilling your glycogen stores so you can perform at your peak again tomorrow.
  • Recovery food should contain the 3 macronutrients - carbohydrate (e.g. wholegrain bread), fat (e.g. avocado), and protein (egg, nuts, dairy). Carbohydrate and protein being the two most important. Research shows that having protein with your carbohydrates assists this further than just having carbohydrate on its own. Stash your snacks in your bag in your drawer at work in the glove box of your car so you always have something on hand.
  • Ditch the sugar and its friend - artificial sugar. Sugar won't feed your muscles and aid its recovery it will most likely lead to weight gain.
  • Don't touch the sports drinks. The majority of us don't need these and whilst the ad campaigns do wonders in selling them to us unless you are training more than 1 ½ hrs per day and really sweating you don't need sports drinks. In fact, for most of us, these drinks will contribute significantly to weight gain.
  • Use natural electrolyte replacement products that don't have the added sugar and artificial gunk. One of these is coconut water; it is a fabulous alternative to the commercial electrolyte drinks.

Post a high-intensity training session
If you have just done over an hour or serious training and (lots of sweating);

  • As above for medium intensity, however, it is even more important you fuel and hydrate your body within 30 minutes of finishing training especially if you have had an endurance session of more than 90 minutes
  • If water is not satiating your thirst, try a sports energy drink. Have half first then see if you need the other half.


Post-workout snack ideas;

  • Plain tap water
  • Coconut water
  • Apple with a handful of almonds
  • 1-2 soft boiled eggs on a wholegrain cracker
  • 2 Ryvita with nut butter spread
  • 3 rice cakes with cottage cheese and avocado
  • 3 corn cakes with hummus dip
  • Good quality protein shake with fruit and yoghurt post an endurance session (more than 90 minutes of high-intensity training)
  • Good quality protein shake on its own post a resistance only session or if you are trying to lose weight
  • 3-4 dried figs and 10 walnut halves
  • Natural yoghurt with LSA (Linseed sunflower seed and almond meal) with chopped pear
  • Carman's fruit free muesli bar (it has enough carbohydrates from the oats and honey you most likely don't need the extra dried fruit sugar that is found in most muesli bars)
  • Homemade nut muffin
  • Wholegrain toast with tomato and feta cheese
  • Small bowl of fruit free muesli with yoghurt and milk

Stay away from:

  • Sports drinks caffeinated drinks
  • Lollies

Your diet plays a major role in your recovery and therefore your ability to achieve your goals. So ensure you don't undo all your hard work by over-fueling. If you have any questions or need more personal attention, a Naturopath or Nutritionist can specifically tailor a diet for you. Everyone is different, so do yourself a favour and get some guidance.


Written by Johanna Clark, Natropath and Nutritionist

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