If you frequent your local gym, you may hear a lot about supplements, bars, shakes and the like. Everyone seems to be a nutrition expert these days. A friend recently overheard a gym member advising another member about the benefits of protein powder. She recommended adding it to apple juice for post-workout nutrition recovery. That sounds unappealing to me (I don’t just eat for nutrition, I also like to enjoy the foods and beverages I consume), and while eating or drinking the right stuff after a workout is important, a supplement isn’t necessary.
Many who use supplements to enhance the effects of exercise or for recovery from exercise, may argue that they use them for not only the purpose of nutrition, but also for convenience (and may believe the nutrition must occur immediately after activity). Rather than discuss the minutiae of human metabolism, the simple fact is, as long as you replenish your body with proper nutrition within an hour of activity, your body will replace its stores and recuperate.
There are many easy-to-use foods that work just as well as expensive supplements and are convenient, too (cheese and crackers, yogurt, milk, half a sandwich). First, let’s look at some basic points about recovery nutrition:
- Within an hour, eat a snack containing carbohydrate and a little protein.
- Hydrate. Don’t underestimate how hydration impacts performance. Adequate fluid is essential to an athlete’s comfort, safety and performance. A fluid loss of 2 percent or more has been shown to drop blood volume, which causes the heart to work harder and can lead to cramping, dizziness and fatigue.
How Much Protein Do You Need Daily*?
- Strength training: 0.7-0.8 grams per pound body weight (1.6-1.7g per kg BW)
- Endurance: 0.5-0.6 grams per pound body weight (1.2-1.4 g per kg BW)
*Source: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Dietetic Association (ADA)
Many studies have shown that chocolate milk is the ultimate recovery drink. Anecdotally, my husband is a triathlete, and chocolate milk works for him. Consider how chocolate milk compares to popular protein mixes in the following table:
While protein powders provide more protein (and some add vitamins and minerals, which you can get by eating more fruits and vegetables), you actually need to replace carbohydrate and a just bit of protein for recovery. Studies have shown that while protein synthesis occurs after ingesting protein post-exercise, once 20 grams of protein is ingested, synthesis levels off. (This study was based on a 190-pound individual. If you’re smaller, you’ll need less protein). Also to keep in mind, that protein plays a more important role in strength training recovery as opposed to endurance recovery.
So, plan to drink a 12-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk the next time you get home or back to work after a work-out. You can pour it and keep it in a reusable drink bottle to that it’s always ready to go. Chocolate milk: It’s easy and just as effective as an expensive supplement. Rethink your drink.
American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.