Exercise & Nutrition: Post Performance

post performance nutrition

You’ve crossed the finish line. Grab some….chocolate milk?

So you just finished your workout for the day. You are sweaty and high on endorphins. But now what?

Do you know when to eat? or what to eat? Or WHY you even need to eat?

Goal One: Glycogen Synthesis

We talked in the first post about what we are burning when we are exercising – does anyone remember?

Glycogen – the stored form of glucose (the simplest form of sugar). The whole point of exercise is to burn calories, right? But it’s very important to replace some so that you can have energy for the next workout, build up lean muscle mass and to avoid dehydration. Remember, carbohydrates are the fuel for this awesome car called your body.

So to go along with our post exercise goal of glycogen synthesis, who can guess how we replace those?

You got it – complex carbs

A lot of you may be thinking: Gosh, exercise takes a lot of carbs – does this mean I can go crazy on some bread and cookies and cakes, etc.? No way!

Complex carbs are foods like whole grains, vegetables, beans, legumes and other high-fiber foods. These foods take longer than simple sugars, like cake, to break down and get into your blood stream. The fiber also helps to lower cholesterol and keep you feeling fuller, longer.

Since the rate of glycogen resynthesis is ~5% per hour, it’s recommended to consume carbohydrates at least 4-6  hours post exercise to get that production started. Usually, this is easy to do, as long as you are eating a meal sometime after your exercise – opt for complex carbohydrates.

Goal Two: Protein

Protein in post-exercise meal provides amino acids for muscle repair. It also enhances our non-muscular tissues like tendons and bone.

Different athletes require different amounts of protein. Someone who is an experienced runner (conducting similar workouts daily) has a lower protein need than someone who is in training (high intensity/high frequency – like training for a race/competition).

Laboratory-based studies have shown that muscle protein synthesis is optimized when you consume high biological value protein (proteins like milk, eggs, soy that contain all 9 essential amino acids) within 0-2 hours post performance.

SO how much should you eat? about 15-25 grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise

Goal Three: Fluids

Make sure you are hydrating. Check out the post on sweat rate if you need help determining how much water you should be drinking. Make sure you aren’t near dehydration (defined as losing >2% of your body weight during a workout)


  • WATER!
  • chocolate milk – see below 🙂

Optimal sources/meal ideas for post performance

Then, try combining complex carbs with your protein to increase muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis. Snack and meals ideas from the SCAN Dietetics Practice, as well as some of my own meal ideas:


  • Smoothie made with yogurt and berries
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter + low-fat chocolate milk + banana
  • Greek yogurt + whole wheat toast
  • Hard boiled egg

Recovery Meal Ideas

  • Whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies + pretzels + low-fat milk
  • Rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole grain tortilla chips
  • Stir fry with lean steak, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice

Chocolate Milk – WHY?

Have you heard people recommending chocolate milk after a race or soccer game? Why is that?

Chocolate milk is known to be a good recovery drink since it is high in carbohydrates, protein, water content, and calcium. It’s true that flavored milk (chocolate, strawberry, etc) has a higher carb to protein ratio, which is ideal for muscle recovery/repair/rebuilding.

It’s nutrient dense, even though it does have the added sugars. The carbohydrates aid in glycogen synthesis, the high-quality proteins help with muscle repair, the calcium, of course, helps with bone strength – which every athlete needs, vitamin D to help with the absorption, sodium, and potassium to replace fluid losses.

It’s a great option!

I hope this helps! Lab application post is next 🙂