Step 3: Refuel

Refuelling means getting some carbohydrate and protein back in your system so that you can replenish energy stores and repair your muscles. We used to worry about nutrient timing and recommend that you had to eat within about 20 minutes of finishing your workout, but more recent research shows that as long as you have a well-balanced and reasonable meal within 1-2 hours after your workout or practice you’ll be fine. That meal should have some healthy, nutrient dense foods that have complex carbohydrates and lean, organic proteins.  

I believe that post-workout nutrition should improve your overall health. Stick to any of the healthy foods we already discussed in the Eat Smarter module: complex carbohydrates and high-quality proteins and fats. If your workout is more aerobic, try a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. If you’re doing strength training or higher-intensity intervals, eat closer to a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.

I’ve developed some simple rules for my athletes that help determine what type of carbohydrate to use, and when. Basically, the closer the next exercise bout, the more you can rely on simple carbohydrates. For example, during a basketball game simple carbohydrates are the best option because you are trying to keep blood-glucose levels high. In this case, a sports drink would be a good option. If you have to perform another exercise within a couple of hours, such as during a tennis tournament, then carbohydrates that are easy to digest are your best bet. In this case, a whole-wheat bagel would be a good option. But if the next training or competition session is more than a few hours away, then you should rely on complex carbohydrates, proteins and even some fats to supply a sustained level of consistent energy, and nutrients to help rebuild body tissues.

For athletes, making wise nutritional choices is vital for success. As someone who is exercising regularly, you have different nutritional needs than the average person. You need to fuel your body for the work it is about to do (sometimes multiple workouts per day!).  Not only will good everyday nutrition ensure that your body is healthy and ready to perform, but careful consideration of the timing of that pre-workout snack or the composition of that recovery bar after your training could help boost your performance to new levels.

Today's POWER-UP: What's the best snack bar for post-workout recovery? 

What’s the best choice for a cardio workout or a weight-training session? The key to picking the right post-workout snack is to check the carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. Here are a few examples:

> Power Bar Protein Plus. 300 calories, 37g carb, 24g protein. 1.5 carbs to protein. Good for post–strength training workout.

> Power Bar Recovery. 260 calories, 30g carb, 12g protein. 3:1 carbs to protein. Good for interval workout or circuits in the gym.

> Lara Bar. 240 calories, 23g carb, 6g protein. 4:1 carbs to protein. Good for after cardio workout.

> Cliff Bar. 250 calories, 46g carb, 11g protein. 4+:1 carbs to protein. Good for during cardio exercise.

> Life Sport Zone. 300 calories, 39g carb, 24g protein. 2:1 carbs to protein. Good for after strength-training session.