When to Eat after Training or Racing for Optimum Recovery

Best Practices for Food Consumption Around Training and Racing

Part 3 – food timing after training

(read Part 1: nutrition consumption before training)

Lots of focus is put on what to eat before, and during your training sessions. Incorporating a mix of fasted and fed trainings into your training is a good idea, and something we have talked about recently in other blog posts. But what about after. What about recovery? Is it important to eat after you’ve finished your training? It’s all about the three R’s – Refuel, Rehydrate and Repair.

I recently discussed the rehydrating side of things, today we’re focusing on refuelling and repairing.

When you exercise, the carbohydrate that is stored in your muscles gets used up. Muscle proteins start to break down. So once your session is done, replenishing these carb stores, and helping repair and rebuild your muscles is required. Incorporating good recovery strategies to allow this to occur is essential, both to encourage better acquisition of the benefits of the training in the first place, and to help with managing muscle soreness, hunger and sustaining energy levels across the day after that training session.

Does timing matter?

It’s common to not always feel hungry after some sessions, whilst after others you may feel absolutely ravenous. Eating within approximately 30minutes of finishing your training session is recommended for all the above reasons. Leave it too long and that ‘recovery window’ starts to close, and (particularly for those watching their body composition), elevated hunger, above what is required is likely to be experienced later in the day.

How much is needed?

A combo of protein and carbs is required for best results. In the first hour after eating, the following quantities are required. Keep in mind starting to eat and drink within 30 minutes is usually recommended:

– 15-25g of high quality protein

– 1-1.2 g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight

So… what does that look like?

The best choices for recovery contain a combination of protein and carbs. Think eggs on toast, yoghurt with muesli, protein shake with banana and oats.

For example, 1 cup oats + 1 ½ cups milk will provide approximately 50g of carbs and 15g of protein. 2 eggs and 3 slices of bread will provide around the same, or 350g sweet potato and 100g grilled fish will provide approximately 50g of carbs and 20g protein.

Check out the below tables from the Australian Institute of Sport for more detail.

Food Quantity for 50g of carbohydrate
Weet-Bix 5 biscuits
Pasta 1.3 cups
Muesli bar 2.5 bars
Oats 1 cup
Bread 3-4 slices
Banana 2 medium / large fruits
Melon 6 cups
Potato 3 medium potatoes / 350 g
Sweet potato 2.5 cups / 350 g
Milk 1 liter
Flavoured milk 560 mL
Jam/Honey 3 tablespoons
Mars bar (50-60g) 1.5 bars
Hamburger 1.3 Big Macs
Fruit juice 500-600 mL
Sports drink 700 mL
Animal-produced Foods
2 small eggs
30g (1.5 slices) reduced fat cheese
70g cottage cheese
1 cup (250ml) low-fat milk
35g lean beef, lamb or pork (cooked weight)
40g lean chicken (cooked weight)
50g grilled fish
50g canned tuna or salmon
200g reduced fat yoghurt
150g light fromage frais
Plant-based Foods
4 slices (120g) wholemeal bread
3 cups (90g) wholegrain cereal
2 cups (330g) cooked pasta
3 cups (400g) cooked rice
¾ cup (150g) lentils or kidney beans
200g baked beans
120g tofu
60g nuts or seeds
300 mL soy milk
100g soy meat

Eating soon after finishing exercise and choosing a mix of protein and carbohydrate provides the nutrients your body needs to refuel and repair the muscles after a tough training session. Doing so allows for better recovery, meaning you’ll be ready for your next training session sooner, and feeling better than ever.

Featured photo credit: VisualHunt

Chloe McLeod
Chloe McLeod
Chloe McLeod has had a keen interest in nutrition from a young age due to food intolerances as well as a realization about the important role food plays in an active lifestyle. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics, a master’s degree in Public Health, has received Sports Dietetics training through the Australian Institute of Sport, and has earned qualifications for ISAK Level 1, and is a member of DAA, SDA, and PINES. She is a two-time marathoner, avid trail runner, and also enjoys staying active through snowboarding and Pilates.