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Dr. Nikole MacLellan

Why Recovery Shakes Are Important for Athletes

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Right after you work out, your muscles begin to rebuild and repair themselves. The longer you wait to consume nutrients, the longer it will take your body to absorb them. The right recovery shakes will digest quickly, and provide the proper nutrients to your body right away.

Post-workout shakes are an awesome and efficient way to enhance muscle repair and growth. Your post-workout shake should contain a protein source and carbs that can break down quickly and replenish your muscle’s glycogen stores.

Your goal for your post-workout shake should be to replace the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, while promoting muscle repair and strengthening your immune system. Athletes who consume a post-workout shake will perform better in their next session or sport, and build to have better quality workouts from being properly refueled.

The consumption of fats is not necessary after your workout because it will slow the absorption of glucose in the body. I certainly feel that good fats should be incorporated into athlete’s diets and that they play a pivotal role in brain heath and mitochondrial (energy) function - but timing is key.

Protein shakes are my go to fuel source for athletes because they are convenient and efficiently replenish the fuel athlete’s bodies need.

Some athletes have very sensitive stomachs and also can have food sensitivities or allergies so there are many things to consider when designing a shake and a one size fits all approach never works for athletes.

When developing the perfect shake for an athlete, their goals are an important factor. If they’ve slacked too much in the off season we won’t give them a high-calorie shake if their goal is to get back in game shape.

For smaller guys looking to bulk up, there are three factors to consider: ingredients, amount, and timing. Timing of post workout refuel varies depending what research you review, and I haven’t come across any overwhelming evidence for specific recommendations.

There are a few general guidelines to follow under specific circumstances: If you prefer fasted workouts, you should refuel within 30 minutes of finishing your exercise. Or, if you ate 3-4 hours before working out, you should probably make sure you refuel within the hour. If you had a substantial protein-packed meal within 1-2 hours of working out, you don’t need to refuel immediately after.

The base of your shake should always be a good protein source; the most convenient being protein powder. My top recommendation would be a good-quality whey protein powder with a strong amino acid profile – that is, if your stomach isn’t sensitive to whey.

If you are going for a vegetarian protein, ensure it is a combination of two protein sources or it will not be a complete source of protein and will not fully help your muscles recover. When in doubt, peanut butter is another great source of protein.

For carbs, you can add any higher-glycemic carbohydrates you like. I find dates and bananas are perfect for athletes as they are healthy, real food options and pack plenty of extra nutrients into the shakes.

Never stop getting better

-Dr. Kokes 

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