Q: Why is it not advised to eat high-protein (and/or high-fat) foods immediately after a match (or practice)? If advised NOT immediately afterward, then, is one or two hours after a match or strenuous practice a good time? I remember reading that the muscle damage that occurs during play needs to be repaired by eating protein in the diet.
A: Replacing the carbohydrates you lost in your muscle during exercise is a time sensitive issue. Your body uses carbohydrates to replenish muscle energy stores. The body is most receptive to using carbohydrates to replace the lost energy stores within the first 2 hours after your workout or match; the sooner you can start the recovery process the better. Some research even suggests you should try to get carbohydrates into the body within 10 minutes after play has stopped. Here are some general guidelines for you to follow:
• In the first half hour after play you should eat a snack that contains a minimum of 30-45g of carbohydrates.
• Follow this up with a balanced meal before you reach the 2 hour mark.
• Research is also showing that the snack should contain some protein, 7-8g of protein, to aid in muscle repair. Some sources of protein are: Low-Fat Chocolate Milk, Power Bar, Avid Bar, Smoothie.
Current research is suggesting you consume some protein every 2-4 hours to allow muscle repair to continue. The amount of protein you need to consume depends on many factors. I suggest you consult with a Sports Nutritionist if you are looking for exact amounts of protein to maximize performance.
About the author: Sebastien Glinzler is the Director of Tennis at Western Reserve Racquet & Fitness Club. He also serves as the Head Tennis Coach at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio.