Road Cyclists Blogs

Right Place - Right Time: Post Exercise Nutrition

Heading to your kitchen after a workout appears to be a great idea! The late Dr. Ed Burke, former advisor to the US National Cycling Team and director of the exercise science program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was not only a fitness guru, but a dietary Jedi Master who helped bicycle racers at all levels maximize their athletic potential. In 2001 his book Optimal Muscle Recovery: Your Guide to Achieving Peak Physical Performance revolutionized the thinking around performance nutrition. He suggested a post workout meal consisting of a ratio of 4:1 of carbohydrate to protein to replenish energy stores and repair damaged muscle fibers, aiding exercisers with recovery.

Then and now, re-fueling our bodies with a post workout meal consisting of a ratio of 4:1 of carbohydrate to protein definitely aids recovery. What’s different is that we used to speak of a 2 hour recovery window in which to have that meal. Recent clinical trials have confirmed the best time to ingest a post exercise meal for optimal recovery is within 30-45 minutes after exercise.  (Ivy and Portman 2004 Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition).  This recovery period is known as the metabolic window. Ingesting a meal within this window (30-45 minutes) can lead to exercise recovery within 4-10 hours as opposed to 24-36 hours when eaten 2 hours later.

In addition research supports the inclusion of 20 grams of protein in that post exercise meal, using the 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (for exercisers concerned with caloric balance, a 2:1 ratio still aids recovery).

So what constitutes a post exercise meal?  Whole foods, liquid supplements, and bars can all be used based on preference.  Below are a few whole food ideas.

Foods containing 25-30 grams of carbohydrate:

1 cup of juice,1 large piece of fruit,1 bagel or 2 pieces of bread,1 large baked potato,1 cup most cereals, 2 cups milk, 1 cup of rice, corn or squash, 2/3 cup dried beans

Foods containing 20-25 grams of protein

3 eggs ( 6 egg whites, or ¾ cup egg substitute), 2 cups milk, 3 cups soy milk of yogurt; ¾ cottage cheese, 3 oz. chicken, fish, pork or beef, 3 oz. cheese, 6 tablespoons peanut butter

So ride hard, have fun and head to the kitchen after exercise to replenish energy stores and repair damaged muscle fibers, so you can do it all over again the next day.

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