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What can I eat to help my body recover from sports practice or a game?

The goals of recovery nutrition are to replace fluids and electrolytes, replace energy stores, and rebuild muscle. To accomplish these goals, carbohydrates, protein, and fluids/electrolytes become the most important nutritional components.

During hard exercise, you will dramatically decrease your carbohydrate stores. Consuming 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight during the first 30 minutes following exercise is critical to begin replenishing your stores. Foods such as 1 bagel, 3 slices of white bread, 2 pancakes or pieces of French toast, a large muffin, 2 pieces of fruit, 1 cup of cold cereal, 10 ounces of fruit juice, or 16 ounces of chocolate or strawberry milk will provide you with approximately 50 grams of carbohydrates. To completely replenish your lost carbohydrate stores, you should consume at least an additional 50 grams of carbohydrates within 2 hours.

Protein is also important to include in your recovery nutrition. Protein is necessary to begin repairing muscles that have been damaged from exercise. You should consume approximately 10 to 20 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes following exercises. Foods to consider include 1 ounce of meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; 2 eggs or egg whites; 8 ounces of milk; 1 cup of yogurt; 1/2 cup of beans; 1/3 cup of nuts; or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

The simplest guide for fluid/electrolyte replacement is the amount of weight lost during exercise. Weigh yourself before and after activity. You should drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose. Water and/or an electrolyte beverage are recommended.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Appalachian State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.