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Fueling Up AFTER Exercise

Mission accomplished!  After the hard work is through, it’s time to eat.  Food is magical; repairing the body once it’s been depleted.  When done correctly, your body will reap results.  In this very instance, you are exactly what you eat. 


After Exercise Food: Why?

Pumping iron, walking laps, or going for a jog leave lasting memories with the muscles and the body.  Initially, this may seem treacherous: depleting energy, micro-tearing the major muscles in a benign way, and leaving you feeling worn.  Exercise can be seemingly insidious in so many ways! With a proper recovery meal, this seemingly devastating scene can be worthwhile, welcomed and beneficial to the whole body. 

It is only after you break your body down that it will begin to build itself back up, thus making you stronger and healthier.  Learning and adapting become the path to fitness.  Calories in the form of protein, carbohydrate, and fat work together to spur the short term adaptive process: repairing the tissues.  Carbohydrates replenish your fuel tank, protein provides the building blocks to mend the muscle tears, and fats provide essential calories, are shuttles for important vitamins, and can tamp down some of the natural inflammation going on.  Fruits and veggies provide important nutrients that fight free radicals, and aid in the repair of bone, muscle, and blood. 


After Exercise Food: What?

Sustenance and adaptability is the name of the game now that the exercise is complete. Complex and simple carbs, healthy fats, and lean proteins with the right amount of fluid to wash it down can do wonders for your recovery, and keep you energized for the remainder of the day after a tiring session.

Examples of food options within their respective food groups: 

  1. Carbs – Rice, quinoa, potatoes, polenta, grits, oatmeal, bread, pasta, fruit
  2. Fats – Olive Oil, avocado, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, whole milk
  3. Proteins – chicken, pork, tofu, beans, milk, yogurt
  4. 16 oz or more of Fluids – water, tea, sports drink, seltzer, watermelon

This varies depending on the person, the exercise, the age and various food preferences.


After Exercise Food: When?

Nourishing you when you need it most is important for optimum healing.  The timing of replenishment and the understanding of nutrition for growth is a rare knowledge to have and can give you the boost needed to feel your best, no matter your condition or health status.  It’s simple:  eat within 2 hours of exercise.  Period.  The rest of the day is “business as usual” as they say.

Combining exercise and nutrition makes weight maintenance, overall health, and mental clarity much easier to attain.  There is no one without the other. 

Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master's degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

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