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Whether it’s a long run, practice before the big game, or an all-day meet, good nutrition is key for optimal athletic performance. And while many of us think about what we’ll eat or drink before we exercise, we often neglect to think about the most important time to optimize performance – post-exercise nutrition.

Bob Seebohar, a registered dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, recently spoke to a group of coaches about the importance of proper post-exercise nutrition, emphasizing the 3Rs of refueling – restore, resynthesize and rehydrate. Let’s break each one down…

  • Restore with carbohydrates. During exercise, your body relies on blood glucose and stored muscle glucose (glycogen) as fuel – or energy. This stored muscle glucose is often depleted after exercise and needs to be replaced, in the form of dietary carbohydrates.
  • Resynthesize with protein. During activity, muscle is broken down. While this is a natural result of strenuous activity, future athletic performance in practices and games is largely impacted by how well our muscles rebuild and resynthesize new muscle fibers after a workout. Protein aids in this recovery effort.
  • Rehydrate with fluid and electrolytes. When you exercise, you lose fluid in the form of sweat. The harder you exercise, the more fluid is lost. In addition to fluid, electrolytes, such as sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium, are lost in sweat.

Milk, both white and chocolate, is an excellent choice after exercise as it provides carbohydrates which help refuel muscles, high quality protein to reduce muscle breakdown, and fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate the body. According to Seebohar, ideally we are refueling within 30 to 60 minutes of exercise.

You might be asking “Is chocolate milk better than white milk after exercise?” Chocolate milk provides what many consider the “golden ratio” of carbohydrates to protein (3 to 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein) necessary for optimal recovery. While chocolate milk has more grams of carbohydrate per serving than white milk, both offer essential nutrients and either one can be an excellent choice post-workout.

Emerging research in adult athletes has demonstrated that one serving of milk post-exercise may help reduce muscle damage and improve muscle recovery – which in turn, may help the body perform better during its next workout. In fact, research shows that drinking milk after a workout can be as effective as some sports drinks in helping the body restore, resynthesize and rehydrate after exercise.

Athletes can train harder and perform better with proper nutrition. Visit http://westerndairyassociation.org/health-and-nutrition/milk-and-sports-nutrition/ to read more about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and learn how to eat for peak athletic performance.

*All information associated with the Western Dairy Association “Nutriton Corner” is sponsored by Western Dairy Association as a partnership with University of Denver Athletics & Recreation, and not provided by trainers or staff of the Coors Fitness Center.

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