To repair and build muscle, athletes must refuel with high-protein foods immediately following exercise, especially after resistance training. They should consume 20 to 40 g of protein that includes 3 to 4 g of leucine per serving to increase muscle protein synthesis.13 While research has shown 20 g of whole egg protein can stimulate muscle protein synthesis in young, healthy men, the literature suggests that higher amounts are necessary in athletes over the age of 71 and possibly at younger ages, although this hasn’t been fully determined.14
The best way athletes can quickly replenish muscle glycogen is to consume 1.5 g of high-glycemic carbohydrates per 1 kg of body weight immediately after exercise. If the athlete delays carbohydrate consumption by two hours or more, glycogen synthesis will be reduced by 50%.5 Another way to restore glycogen is to consume 0.6 to 1 g of high-glycemic carbohydrate per 1 kg of body weight right after exercise and again every two hours for four to six hours.6,7 In addition, ingesting protein along with carbohydrate can increase muscle glycogen stores when insufficient total carbohydrate is consumed or when carbohydrate intake is consumed in intervals spread out by more than one hour.1
6. Jentjens RL, van Loon LJ, Mann CH, Wagenmakers AJ, Jeukendrup AE. Addition of protein and amino acids to carbohydrates does not enhance postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis. J Appl Physiol. 2001;91(2):839-846.
Protein needs should be assessed on an individual basis. Intake should be high enough to stimulate protein synthesis, prevent muscle atrophy, and maintain lung strength but should not contribute excess calories to the diet. The general rule of thumb is about 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of protein daily or approximately 20% of total caloric intake. As for fluids, patients who are not on a fluid-restricted diet should be encouraged to drink liquids (2 to 3 liters per day) to keep mucous thin and help clear the airways.
1. Ivy JL. Regulation of muscle glycogen repletion, muscle protein synthesis and repair following exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3:131-138.
In addition, whey is an optimal postworkout protein because of its amino acid composition and the speed of amino acid release into the bloodstream. And while it’s crucial to replenish the body with protein and amino acids immediately after exercise, athletes need to eat protein regularly throughout each day to stimulate whole-body protein synthesis until muscle failure sensitizes muscle tissue to protein for up to 48 hours after exercise.15
13. Yang Y, Breen L, Burd NA, et al. Resistance exercise enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis with graded intakes of whey protein in older men. Br J Nutr. 2012;108(10):1780-1788.
What many athletes often overlook is the importance of carbohydrate intake for building and repairing muscle. Carbohydrate can decrease muscle protein breakdown by stimulating insulin release. Resistance training athletes benefit from consuming carbohydrates and protein after strenuous workouts.16 Complete nutrition shakes help rehydrate athletes while providing both carbohydrate and protein postworkout.
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14. Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(1):161-168.