Snack Your Way To Recovery

by Brooke on May 28, 2013

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The recovery period is an important performance factor for athletes.   Especially, for athletes that workout longer than ninety minutes at a time or for those elite athletes that compete on sequential days.  Consuming a recovery snack may also be beneficial for other active individuals helping them meet their daily nutrient needs. Timing and composition are two important factors of a post-composition or post-workout snack.  Consuming a carbohydrate and a protein source immediately after exercise (within thirty minutes) aids in recovery. However, for active individuals that rest one to two days between workouts, recovery snacks may be unnecessary.


Glycogen (carbohydrate) stores in your muscles are drained and used for energy during exercise. Carbohydrates consumed both within thirty minutes and two hours after an event or workout enhance glycogen repletion.  At both time points, 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram should be consumed.   For example, a 130 pound athlete would want to consume 89 grams of carbohydrate thirty minutes and two hours after their 90 minute workout.


Adding a protein source to the recovery snack may aid in muscle repair and synthesis.  The general recommendation post-exercise for protein is .1-.2 grams protein per kilogram of body weight per hour of exercise.  For example, a 130 pound athlete would want to consume 6.5-11.8 grams of protein after their 60 minute workout.  Protein shakes or recovery drinks that provide between 10-20 grams of protein will meet the needs of most active individuals post-exercise.

The Protein and Carbohydrate Combination

Snack Ideas (within 30 minutes):

  • Whole grain cereal with low-fat milk
  • Smoothie made with low-fat yogurt and mixed berries
  • Trail mix (1 cup whole grain cereal, 1/2 cup dried fruit, 1/2 cup of nuts)
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of low-fat chocolate milk
  • Protein Bar (ie Cliff, Lara Bar, Power Bar) with a small banana

Meal Ideas (two hours post-workout):

  • Grilled cheese sandwich, pretzels, and an apple
  • Stir-fry (lean chicken breast and your favorite vegetables) with brown rice
  • Pita bread sandwich (whole wheat pita, lean turkey, lettuce, and tomato), low-fat cottage cheese and an apple
  • Whole wheat bagel, two egg veggie scramble, low-fat chocolate milk, and an orange
  • Blackened chicken breast on angel hair pasta with a marinara sauce, side salad, and whole wheat roll

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete DeLaunay June 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Since 2003, the Washington Interscholastic Nutrition Forum (WINForum) has conducted and digitally recorded objective nutrition clinics for hundreds of coaches, athletic trainers, student athletes and their parents. Clinic presenters answer questions and provide objective nutrition information that is used to fuel the website, and social media. The WINForum recommends a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat or fat-free dairy. In regard to your post about recovery drinks: The purpose of a recovery drink is to help refuel your body with carbohydrates, protein and hydration. Lately you may have been hearing a lot about chocolate milk as a recovery drink but you may not fully understand why. Chocolate milk naturally contains the most effective balance of carbohydrate and protein, it is convenient and it is affordable. There are also some soy options that lactose intolerant athletes can use; they just need to be conscious that soy contains a little less protein than regular milk.


Brooke June 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Hi Pete,

Of course I’ve heard about chocolate milk 😉 I recommend it to a lot of athletes I work with and have also personally used it as a recovery snack. Thank you for leaving a comment!


Casein protein June 6, 2013 at 7:40 am

Your blog is really great! Your blog is great for anyone who wants to understand this subject more. I hope you continue to write!


Chaz Ott June 12, 2013 at 3:20 am

Nice article, Brooke! As a rock climber, I’m always looking for good recovery foods after a day of climbing. Mostly, however, I go straight to beer. Of course that’s a good carb source, but lacking in the protein department. Got any recommendations for fast-digesting protein to go with the carb load of beer?


Brooke June 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks Chaz! If beer is your carbohydrate of choice I would pair it with some low-fat cheese or unsalted nuts to meet your protein needs post-exercise.


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