Exercise is something we should all engage in on a regular basis (The recommendation is a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days a week), and performance nutrition principles are essential for an optimal workout. Properly preparing for andrecovering from exercise facilitates the ability to push yourself longer and harder, which is precisely how you become a better athlete, lose a few extra pounds, build lean muscle mass, or improve your aerobic capacity.

The focus of this blog is to teach you how to implement recovery nutrition practices that will put the cap on your kick-ass workout, or the proverbial “icing on the cake” – without involving actual cake!


There are three elements of recovery nutrition: Refuel, Repair, Rehydrate. Each element is essential for optimal recovery and the ability to workout again the next day at 100%.



The refueling process begins almost immediately after finishing your workout. Depending on the intensity and the duration of your exercise, along with the objective you are trying to achieve, you should aim to consume carbohydrate-rich foods within the first 45 minutes of finishing. It may be wise to pack your gym bag with snacks, or keep them in your car, at home, or in your office. Recovery snacks may include: Granola or energy bars, chocolate milk, fruit, yogurt, toast, bagels, smoothies, or any other carb-rich foods. These foods will provide your body with the energy, nutrients and fuel to prepare yourself for another workout the next day.



The repair process also begins almost immediately after finishing your workout, and involves the consumption of protein-rich foods. While you may get some protein from the snacks you consume within the first hour of finishing, the majority of your protein consumption will come from the well-balanced meal that you should have 1- 2 hours after finishing your workout. A recovery meal may look like this: Seasoned chicken breast with brown rice and asparagus (or other vegetable), or whole wheat pasta with a homemade meat sauce and a side salad. These foods will provide your body with the perfect blend of carbohydrates, protein, fat and other nutrients to aid in the repair and building of muscle, replenishing energy stores, and boosting your immune system.



Proper hydration is essential before, during and after a workout, especially if you have just induced a heavy sweat. The rehydration process should begin immediately after finishing your workout and should continue for the rest of the day. You can easily monitor fluid loss by weighing yourself before and after a workout. It is recommended that you consume 20 oz (2 – 3 cups or 500 – 750 mL) of water for every pound of weight lost during activity. Water is your best choice, as it is essential for rehydrating your muscles, brain and other organs. If a heavy sweat was induced during your workout, or it lasted 60 minutes or longer, you may include a sports drink, which contains both carbohydrate and electrolytes to replace what was lost through your sweat.     

Note: These principles should be applied to those engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise (where heart rate is increased and a sweat is induced). For light exercise, water may be sufficient.



Many people include protein shakes as part of the recovery routine. Before doing so, however, determine whether or not you actually need the extra protein. Studies show that 98% of people meet their protein needs through real food in their diet. Extra protein is not always better, especially if weight loss is your goal. Calculate your protein requirements and compare it to what you are getting in your diet. If there is a protein deficit, try including an extra snack in your diet or use a protein supplement. If there is a protein surplus, you don’t need a supplement. 


For more information on recovery nutrition, check out this website: http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/nutrition/recovery-nutrition.html

Performance Nutrition: The Art of Recovery

by Luke Corey, RD

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