Muscle Recovery: A Complete Guide

by Jackie Wicks

Refueling After Exercise: Carbohydrates

images-10All forms of exercise deplete glycogen, but intense exercise is especially depleting. After exercise, when glycogen has been depleted, your body releases an enzyme called “glycogen synthase” which allows your muscles to quickly restore glycogen. Insulin helps your muscles bring blood glucose into your muscle cells, which then can store it as glycogen.

The Australian Institute of Sport recommends that after glycogen-depleting exercise, you should eat or drink 1.0 — 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight within the hour. This is equivalent to about 0.5 grams per pound, so if you weigh 160 lbs, you should consume 80 grams carbohydrates.

If you have training sessions within 8 hours of each other, this principle is even more important as you have limited time to restore glycogen. Supplements like sports drinks can be a quick way to replenish glycogen stores, but eating real food can work just as well.

Remember, this type of refueling is only important for intense or long exercise that depletes muscle glycogen. Moderate exercise lasting less than an hour typically will not need additional carbohydrates to restock glycogen. For shorter or less intense workouts, just be sure to eat within an hour of finishing.


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