The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 29, 2014

Dietitian: Sustain energy by eating healthy after working out

Q: I am a pretty active adult. I do a variety of exercises for up to two hours each day, four or five days a week. What is all this talk about a recovery meal? Doesn’t eating after a workout defeat the purpose of exercise?

A: You have likely heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But I would argue that for an active person, it is instead the recovery meal after training.

While you may be tempted to skip eating all together after exercise if you are trying to lose weight, keep your recovery meal in the mix. Instead, limit high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and watch portion sizes at other times of the day. Also, be mindful that just because you exercised doesn’t mean you get a free pass to eat whatever you want.

No other meal has as much influence on your energy level for the next workout as the recovery meal. This is especially important if you do split workouts in the same day or have another intense training session scheduled within 24 hours.

After exercise — especially within the first two hours post-training — our muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores need to be refueled in order to have energy for the next workout. Timing is key. Ideally you should be eating a source of carbohydrate and protein within 15-30 minutes of exercising. After two hours, muscle glycogen can still be restored but will occur at a slower rate. Follow your post-exercise snack with a nutrient-dense meal that includes carbohydrates, protein and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

Five recovery snack ideas

■ Dried fruit, nuts, and dried cereal

■ Greek yogurt with fruit and granola

■ Glass of milk and fresh fruit

■ Whole-grain toast with a scrambled egg

■ Whole grain crackers with hummus and veggies

Five recovery meal ideas

■ Whole-grain toast, eggs and fruit

■ Oatmeal with added nut butter, apples and raisins and tall glass of milk

■ Stir-fry with rice, chicken and veggies

■ Bran muffin and smoothie made with banana, berries and powdered milk

■ Wrap with black beans, grated cheese, peppers, corn, salsa and avocado

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