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Refueling For Recovery

A runner opens a GU Energy gel

When you finish your run, it's tempting to make a dash for the showers, then quickly dive into the day's activities. Often food is the last thing on your mind. And because working out often suppresses the appetite, food often doesn't sound appealing. But refueling post workout can play a big role in helping you recover from your workouts, so you can bounce back strong for the next day's run. "When designed right, a recovery meal or snack prevents further muscle breakdown, helps to optimize muscle and liver glycogen stores, and ultimately promotes desired adaptations to training," says registered dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede, a sports nutrition expert with Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! "Omit this recovery meal and your body will remain in a state of breakdown. And it's more likely you'll have sore muscles in the hours and days following the hard effort."

Here's what you need to know about eating for recovery.

REFUEL FAST

In the 30 to 60 minutes immediately following a run - especially a hard workout like a long run or a speed session - your body is primed to metabolize carbs to replenish spent glycogen stores, and use protein to repair muscle tissues stressed during the run. Neglect this window and you may feel extra sore and drained for your next run.

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FOCUS ON CARBS FIRST

Studies have shown that a carb-to-protein ratio of 4:1 to 2:1 is the optimum mixture to help your body get restored. Try to focus on high-quality carbs - from whole grain foods, starchy veggies. Fruit like grapes, oranges and apples can also provide a nutritious boost of carbs, while also providing fiber, vitamins and minerals you need.

If you want to be precise, aim for 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for 70 grams of carbs. It may sound like a lot, but you can probably meet that target with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread.

DON'T FORGET THE PROTEIN

Protein is necessary to help your muscles recover, and get stronger, so the next time you tackle the same workout, it won't feel so hard. Aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein in that recovery meal, regardless of how many carbs you consume. Again, aim for high-quality sources, like eggs, yogurt, or make your own smoothie with skim milk, a banana, and a scoop of protein powder. Chocolate milk has famously been touted as the ideal recovery drink - as one 12-oz. cup of low-fat chocolate milk contains 47 grams of carbs to 12 grams of protein.

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DON'T FORGET TO REHYDRATE

Protein is necessary to help your muscles recover, and get stronger, so the next time you tackle the same workout, it won't feel so hard. Aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein in that recovery meal, regardless of how many carbs you consume. Again, aim for high-quality sources, like eggs, yogurt, or make your own smoothie with skim milk, a banana, and a scoop of protein powder. Chocolate milk has famously been touted as the ideal recovery drink - as one 12-oz. cup of low-fat chocolate milk contains 47 grams of carbs to 12 grams of protein.