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All You Need to Know About Recovery Nutrition

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger...only if you recover properly!

Have you ever had a really satisfying, intense workout or training session that you couldn’t help but feel awesome about?  But then the next day, when your confidence and motivation are high, you just can’t seem to replicate that same awesome workout you had the day before??  What went wrong? 

While there are a number of things that could have gone wrong, the most probable reason that immediately pops into mind is poor post-workout recovery.  If your body is unable to repair itself before your next workout, you will likely enter into exhaustion much quicker.  Recovery nutrition is vital if the goal of your training is to continuously strengthen your body.  It’s not just a matter of eating, but rather when and what you eat following exercise that impacts how well you recover and are able to take it to the next level during your next session. 

What is happening in our bodies when we exercise for a long period of time?

Vigorous exercise leads to depletion of glycogen stores, decreased fluid from sweating and other metabolic reactions, muscle fiber tearing, stress on the body, and a compromised immune system.  In order to restore our body and make it stronger, we need to give it the proper fuel and fluid it desperately needs and at the proper time. 

Let’s talk about fluids.  Water is the preferred fluid for any exercise <60 minutes, but after that, you will want a fluid that provides nutrients and electrolytes to aid your body in repair.  How much fluid is needed?  A good way to monitor fluid loss is by weighing yourself pre- and post-exercise.  For every pound you lose during exercise, drink 20-24 oz of fluid.

Electrolyte balance goes hand in hand with fluid levels.  If you are a salty sweater and tend to experience high electrolyte losses, you may want to replace electrolytes not only after, but also during exercise.  It is estimated that 460 to 1,840 mg of sodium is lost per liter of sweat.  1 liter is equal to 2.2 lbs.  Therefore, if you lose one pound during exercise, you need to drink 20-24 oz of fluid supplemented with about 500 mg sodium. 

To avoid excess calories, dyes, and additives from sports drinks, you can accomplish your fluid and electrolyte needs by drinking the necessary amount of water and taking salt tabs.  SaltStick caps are a great choice to not only replace sodium, but also other important electrolytes like potassium and chloride.  But, be sure to drink the appropriate amount of water with the salt in order to avoid dehydration.

It is also a good idea to monitor your urine both before and after you exercise.  If you have high volume, light to clear colored urine, you are probably well hydrated.  If you have small volume, darker yellow urine, you need to hydrate better.  But, if you have large volumes of clear urine, be careful because you might be overhydrating, which can lead to electrolyte loss.

Keeping yourself hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your recovering body.  Another important thing is fueling your body with the proper nutrients and the proper amounts of these nutrients.  Vigorous exercise sends your body into a catabolic state, breaking down protein in muscle and depleting glycogen stores.  Both must be replenished if you want to maintain or increase performance time.  Current literature supports a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio to jumpstart recovery. 

What does this ratio really mean for you?  Well, first a carbohydrate range must be established.  Studies show fuel stores can be replenished by consuming 0.8-1.2 grams of carbs per kg of body weight following endurance exercise.  For a 150 lb athlete (68 kg), this would mean about 54-82 grams of carbs.  If your workout was on the shorter side, use the lower end of the range to calculate your needs and vice versa for a longer session.

It is estimated that about 0.3-0.4 grams of protein per kg of body weight are needed to repair tissue.  If we do not provide protein for our bodies after working out, there is no way to repair the damage done to our muscles.  Again, for our 150 lb athlete (68 kg), this would equate to 20-27 grams of protein (80-108).  If we stick with the low range of the spectrum and consume 54 grams carbs and 20 grams of protein.

Realistically, which food combinations achieve this carb to protein ratio and calorie range?  The following are both food and shake choices that are easy to make and can be eaten on-the-run:


  • 2 boiled eggs + apple
  • 3 oz turkey meat or tuna + gluten-free wrap + small box of raisins
  • **If you are craving carbs badly, this recovery period is a good time to get those foods in that you wouldn’t normally eat.  If you feel the need to satisfy your craving for pizza or mac n cheese, eat it at this time rather than other times during your day.  Other options are brown rice and lean beef, whole wheat or gluten-free pasta and meatballs, etc.


  • 1 scoop PhysioRecover + ½ cup frozen organic berries + 1 banana + 4 oz water or unsweetened milk alternative


  • 2 scoops Infinit Repair mixed in water
  • 1 scoop PhysioRecover Vanilla + 8 oz Zico coconut water + 2 Earths Best Infant
  • **Tip:  Freeze Zico coconut water and keep it in a cooler so that by time you are done with your exercise it will be nice and cold for your shake!  Also, a 20 oz Blender Bottle is the perfect size to shake up the ingredients!

Bring a small cooler for your recovery snack or a Blender Bottle to make a quick, easy, and tasty shake if you don’t have to time to make a smoothie immediately after exercise.  The shakes and smoothies are great because not only do they satisfy the carb, protein, and antioxidant, but also the fluid needs of your body post-exercise.  Remember, if you lose pounds during exercise, replace each pound with 20-24 oz fluid.  While the smoothie may cover some of this requirement, you will likely still need to drink more water.

The best recovery nutrition advice is to pair a healthy, antioxidant-rich carbohydrate with a protein immediately after exercise.  And make sure you replace any fluids lost during exercise.

You’ve heard the saying “timing is everything”, right?  The same is true for recovery nutrition.  It is crucial to begin refueling and rehydrating within 30 minutes after you exercise.  Strenuous exercise leaves your body damaged and in need of desperate repair.  Be the hero your body needs and restore it back to health quickly—don’t make it wait!  If you want to speed recovery time so that you are ready for the next workout, you must keep proper timing in mind.  Timing, rehydrating, and refueling are key to recovery success and can help you be the athlete you aspire to be!


To figure out your personal recovery needs, please call our office for a consultation with Melissa Bowman at 312-255-8308.

All products listed in the blog can be purchased at PhysioLife Studios.


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