The importance of a recovery snack after a workout depends on the context of your training. If you finished a moderate-intensity run and won’t do another moderate of hard workout for two days, you’ll probably get the nutrients needed for recovery from your regular meals. If you’ve finished a three hour ride in the morning and have an evening run planned, the recovery snack and its timing become much more important. Your recovery nutrition begins before your workout. You’ll need to check that you’re entering the workout with enough food in your stomach. While you may not have full glycogen stores, you want to have enough energy to complete the workout. Fat is needed for endurance workout and glycogen for higher intensity efforts. The carbohydrates consumed in the first 30 minutes after exercise will lead to higher glycogen levels than if you wait for two hours after the workout to begin eating again. Your recovery snack should be a mixture of fluids, sodium, carbohydrates, possibly some protein and not too much fat. Fat can interfere with your body’s ability to process carbohydrates and the protein.
Fluids are needed in a recovery snack because they help offset the fluid lost during the workout. Weighing yourself pre and post workout occasionally will show how much water weight you’re losing. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) suggests to drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound of weight lost during the workout. Sodium needs to be restored to your pre workout balance. It can come from a sports drink, but many sports drinks don’t have enough sodium. Sodium helps pull glucose and water into your cells so it’s important to get the stores refilled.
Chocolate milk has been an ideal recovery drink since a study showed that it aided recovery as well as or better than Gatorade. This is good when a liquid snack is most appealing. When you can, aim to prepare your own recovery snack in order to control the ingredients when possible. Other recovery snacks include: bagel with jam, cream cheese, peanut butter, or a slice of turkey, a smoothie, fruit and yogurt, cereal with milk, fresh juice and a handful of nuts. Include water or sports drink while eating these foods to rehydrate you.