Carbs Rule for Recovery

I’m often asked, “What should I eat or drink after a workout?” This is a fantastic question and one that evolved for me as I continued to search for more information. Here I’ll share what I found and what helps me recover as quickly as I can to fuel my next workout and simply have great energy throughout the day as most of my hard workouts are done prior to breakfast.

What I uncovered from most sources previously was to consume a combination of carbohydrates (carbs) to plant protein using a 3:1 ratio (carbs/protein) as soon as possible after exercise. Many sport protein mixes use this formula. This works but there is a better solution after more recent studies were conducted using the exact same calorie intake that was not taken into consideration in previous studies. When they conducted tests using all protein, carbs/protein (3:1 ratio), and all carbs using the same calories, the ‘all carbs’ consumption led to better recovery. This video from cycling coach Dylan Johnson references these greatly.

Key Points to Maximize Recovery

  • Carbs are the key so don’t worry about adding in plant-protein to get to a 3:1 ratio if you are sacrificing carbs to do it. Straight from one of the studies – “High quality and consistent data demonstrated there is no apparent relationship between recovery of muscle function and ratings of muscle soreness and surrogate markers of muscle damage when protein supplements are consumed prior to, during or after a bout of endurance or resistance exercise.” More carbs, carbs, carbs!
  • Consume carbohydrates as quickly as possible to maximum benefit. We see diminishing returns as time elapses and the longer you wait up to two hours the glycogen resynthesis occurs at about 50% as fast as when you fuel immediately post exercise.
  • Whole foods beats the mixes and supplements too! It’s the antioxidants from real foods where we get the bonus…makes sense. Reduce the inflammation as much as you can. If you do have protein from a supplement make sure it’s plant-based. The common Whey protein will increase inflammation…animal derived.
  • How much? Multiply your weight x .454. This yields your weight in kilograms (kg). This should be the amount of carbs to consume ideally after exercise. I weigh 163 pounds – 163 x .454 = 74kg. I should therefore target a minimum of 74g of carbs. My Healthy Giraffe Breakfast Bowl gets me 156g!!! Power!!!

Depending on my ability to get to whole foods quickly after a workout, I do consume Hammer Vegan Recoverite on occasion that does have a 3:1 ratio of carbs/protein and I usually chase it with a banana that I carry with me almost always. That banana add alone gets me to a 5.5/1 ratio. If I am close to home or near a juice bar, I’ll have my Healthy Giraffe Breakfast Bowl or an acai bowl to fuel my recovery.

Let me know what you do to recover quickly. I hope this helps you consider ways to enhance your next workout and live full of energy!

– Add Health to Your Life

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