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Dos and don'ts for post-workout meal

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthful eating. This week, dietetic intern Lauren Martin (pictured) weighs in on post-workout meals.

While it is important to fuel your body with the right foods throughout the day, perhaps the most important time to pay attention to what you eat is after a workout. Nutrition plays a role in replacing glycogen stores, preventing fatigue and recovering for future workouts. When you work out, your body burns calories, loses electrolytes through sweat and breaks down muscle tissue. It is important to refuel your body after exercise to replace the glycogen, protein and fluid lost.

What to look for

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Within the 30 minutes following a workout, your body needs three things: Fluids to replace the water and electrolytes your body loses in your sweat. For each pound you lose from exercise, you need 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. Protein to repair the muscle tissue broken down during a workout and to stimulate new tissue development. Only a small amount of protein is needed after a workout to enhance glycogen replacement and provide the amino acids needed for the repair of muscle tissues. While a serious weight lifters has higher protein needs than someone running for an hour, a balance of protein with carbohydrates will help recovery.

Carbohydrates to replenish the fuel (glycogen) used by your muscles. Within 30 minutes after exercise, you need 0.5 to -0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight to adequately replace the glycogen lost. For example, after 60 minutes of vigorous exercise, a 150-pound person might need as many as 75 grams of carbohydrate.

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What to avoid

Fat. While fat is an important part of the diet, it slows digestion. Right after a workout, you do not want to slow the digestion of carbs and protein. Try to choose snacks and meals that are relatively low to moderate in fat content. Simple sugars and sweetened beverages, unless you are working out vigorously for more than 60 minutes. Otherwise you are just adding back empty calories that are not helping your body recover adequately.

Snack and meal ideas

Low-fat chocolate milk: An easy, delicious way to replenish fluid, carbs and protein. Low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Yogurt provides a good source of both protein and carbs. Homemade fruit smoothie made up of yogurt, berries and low-fat milk. This is a combination of the first two suggestions. You again get all three things you body needs post-workout. Stir-fried chicken breast with fresh vegetables over brown rice. This is great if you want to eat more of a meal after a workout. The chicken is a good source of protein, and the rice is a healthful source of carbs, fiber and B vitamins. Pita with turkey and hummus and a glass of low-fat milk. The pita provides your carbs, while the turkey and hummus give you protein. The milk gives you all three.

For more information, check out: www.eatright.org. Look under "For the public," "Food and nutrition topics" and then "Sports nutrition."

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