Refuelling your body with the correct nutrients after cardio sessions is important for muscular repair, energy replenishment, and building strength for improved performance in your future workouts. There are three essential macronutrients that should be considered when choosing your post-workout meal or snack; protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
The timing of your post-cardio meal is also important. By including these three nutrients in your meal within 30 minutes of the end of your session, you will be ticking three main goals of post-cardio nutrition;
- Decreasing muscle protein breakdown
- Increasing muscle protein synthesis (growth)
- Replenishing glycogen stores
Recovery nutrition should;
Be rich in quality carbohydrates to replenish muscle fuel stores.
- During high-intensity cardio, glycogen is used as your body’s main fuel source.
- For adequate restoration, aim for 0.75 to 1 gram per kilogram of your body weight, immediately following your session
- Do you ever find yourself rushing off to work after your session? Or consuming your first post-session meal, several hours after your session? Delaying your carbohydrate intake longer than 2 hours post-exercise has been shown to delay glycogen synthesis by 45%.
- Aim for high GI foods post-training, to rapidly replenish energy stores such as pasta, rice, oats, bread, wraps, and fruit.
Contain some lean protein to promote muscle repair.
- Ensure your post-session meal contains 20 grams of quality, lean protein.
- Continue with a protein source in your meals or snacks, 5 to 6 times throughout the day for positive protein balance post-training.
- High protein food sources include lean beef, chicken breast, turkey breast, tinned tuna, salmon, greek yoghurt, mixed beans and tofu. Protein powder can also be a quick and easy option to include with smoothies, oats, or milk.
Include a source of fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate effectively.
- Dairy foods such as milk and yoghurt can be a great option to cover all three recovery goals, including carbohydrate, protein and fluids. Other rehydration options may include electrolyte tablets in your water bottle, or a fruit smoothie.
Top 5 meal suggestions include;
- Banana & oat protein shake
- Chicken or tuna salad wrap
- Protein oats with seeds
- Muesli with Greek yoghurt and berries
- Eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado
Top 5 quick snack suggestions include;
- Chocolate milk
- Handful of dried fruit & nut mix
- Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit
- High protein cottage cheese & boiled egg with rice cakes
- Fruit smoothie with Greek yoghurt & honey
Remember sustainable, enjoyable nutrition habits are key to reaching your health goals. Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand – one without the other is incomplete. It can also be tempting to follow a fad diet or social media trend, but often these diets are restrictive and unsustainable.
For individualised nutrition recommendations, seek advice from a registered dietitian.
By Danielle De Francesco
Accredited Practicing Dietitian (BNutrDiet)