Sandra M. Grant P.Dt. - Registered Clinical Nutritionist
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sports nutrition

Is post work-out nutrition necessary?

January...that time of year when the gyms are packed with people trying to start the year off right!

Losing weight and getting healthy are two of the three most popular New Years resolutions (I'll let you guess the other). I have to say, most people start off full throttle! They're running, cycling, rowing and crunching with great enthusiasm to work off the results of a month of indulgences.

They're also trying to eat better and they're reading up on how to get the most energy to help them get through their workouts.  Which I find quite commendable!!However, one of the questions I hear most often is "Is it true I should drink chocolate milk after my workout"?

This is not a simple yes or no question. It is important to consider the intensity and frequency of your work-out before you start chasing it with chocolate milk. 

If you are doing an intense activity (x-cry skiing, running, mountain biking, hard cycling) you are using your muscle's glycogen stores as your fuel source. Most muscles don't have vast stores of glycogen, meaning, if intense activity is prolonged, you can run out of fuel...this is often referred to as "hitting the wall". The enzymes responsible for replenishing glycogen stores are most active within a half hour of stopping the activity. This is where chocolate milk comes in. First, because it is a liquid, it contains little fibre or fat, and the naturally occurring sugar, lactose (half glucose) is absorbed very quickly into the depleted muscles, it is perfect for replenishing glycogen stores as well as fluids. Additionally it contains a sufficient amount of protein for muscle repair!

So if you're doing a 1 hour zumba class 3 times a week, or you're walking a half hour every night after dinner to keep healthy or shed a few pounds, you do not need a recovery beverage (chocolate milk or any other). Adding a recovery drink will just negate a large percentage of the calories you're working so hard to burn off! 

However, if you're training hard, daily for a big event, muscle glycogen is crucial,  and you should be training your muscles to increase the amount of glycogen they can store. That, of course, is a discussion for another time. For now, keep active, drink lots of water, and eat healthy...at your usual time.


Sources: Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 44: 682, 2012; Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 16: 78, 2006; Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 13: 382, 2003.
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