Got Milk? Try Chocolate After Your Workout
When to Fuel Up
Choosing the right post-workout drink is just step one of the recovery process, says Karp. Besides what you use to re-fuel, when you do it is just as important. Recent research points to the importance of a post-exercise "meal" within 30 to 60 minutes of working out, at the point when muscle glycogen (energy) stores are at their lowest. "I generally recommend eating or drinking something in the first 20 minutes after a workout," said Mike Huff, coordinator of the Duke University Sports Performance Program. "At that point, your muscle fibers have been depleted and they're ready to suck something up."
And not taking steps to replenish your muscles right away can hurt your next performance -- big time, Karp says. "Elite athletes may only have six to seven hours between workouts. It's much more important for them to make a full recovery, and strategies like these can maximize that."Choosing a Workout Recovery Snack
Flavored drinks stimulate your appetite and allow you to drink more, replacing water lost as sweat from the workout. You consume more if you actually like what you're drinking, Stager found. His athletes clamored for chocolate milk -- and shunned other high-carb options like Endurox R4, energy bars, or gels.
After-workout food options don't have to end at the supermarket shelf either. A trainer, basketball player, and avid weight lifter, Huff loves creating his own blend. His homemade high-carb, high-protein beverage is a mixture of bananas, peanut butter, Carnation Instant Breakfast (a high calcium, protein, and carb powder), and -- you guessed it -- milk.
Eating liquid or solid carbohydrates are equally good -- your body doesn't care, as long as it gets what it needs, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, RD, author of The Cyclist's Food Guide (Sports Nutrition Publishers, 2005) and the monthly syndicated column "The Athlete's Kitchen." "You just have to learn which sports snacks settle best for your body -- gels, gummy bears, dried figs, animal crackers, defizzed cola, whatever," she said.
But as for milk, Stager continues to recommend it to his athletes, and Karp, a runner and coach, has permanently switched from Gatorade to chocolate milk to recover from his daily runs. "Gatorade was expensive, but milk's something I already have in my refrigerator," Karp said. "It's easy, it's cheap, and it's got everything that I need after my workout."
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, February, 2006.
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