What’s in your Bottle: Part 6: Post-event recovery

On-bike nutrition is only 33% of the story

[content_box type=”with-header” title=”StartConfident Summary” text_color=”dark” color=”default” animation=”fade-in”]
  • You should be training like you intend to race; that counts for nutrition, too
  • Are you a “sugar burner” or a “fat burner?”
  • The length of the event, the intensity of the event, your fitness, and your weight are the factors that determine your race nutrition
  • You can’t process what you can’t tolerate
  • Without carbs, you bonk. Without water, well, it’s more dire than that.
  • During-event nutrition isn’t the only thing to think about: pre-event and post-event are critical considerations, too

What you eat before and after has a huge effect on your performance

[dropcap style=”default”]We’ve already mentioned[/dropcap]

taking in a short hit of carbohydrate prior to a workout. We’ve also talked about taking in the lion’s share of your total carbohydrate load for an event early on. Your pre-race meal, for example, should be 2–3 hours prior to the event, if possible. Ideally, it’s comprised of low to medium glycemic foods, not simple sugars or “empty calories.” You want to have muscle and liver glycogen at high levels because that energy will need to be available right now when you call on it. It’s the energy that can be burned at rapid rates for fast accelerations and hard climbs. Any carbohydrates that you take in once the race or workout is underway will aid your endurance, but is unlikely to be available for the rapid hard bursts unless they occur later in the event.

What about after an event? How should you plan?

It looks like this:

As soon as possible after the event, preferably within 15 – 30 minutes and definitely no more than an hour, you’ll want to take advantage of the “glycogen window.” This is the time period when your muscle cells are most able to take in replenishment in the form of glycogen.

You’ll want:

  • 500 – 700 milligrams of sodium
  • Enough water to make up the gap for weight lost during the event
  • Then, within a window the size of the event you just completed, you’ll want 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s a lot of carbs, but notice that you have a little time latitude.


You’ll also want to add protein, preferably from lean meats, eggs, or dairy, depending on your dietary preferences. Plant-based proteins aren’t complete, because they lack specific amino acids that are needed to repair and build tissue. As to how much, you’re going for a complete daily protein dose of .5 to .6 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and you’ll want up to 30 grams of protein in your post-event recovery.

So, our rider who is normally 168 pounds would want upwards of 100 grams of protein per day, with up to 30 after the event.

[callout icon=”hb-moon-bike”] As soon as possible after the event, preferably within 15 – 30 minutes and definitely no more than an hour, you’ll want to take advantage of the “glycogen window.”[/callout]

Here’s what I do after my hard early morning interval sessions. (Please note that I’m not a spokesperson or advocate for any particular brand. I’m simply sharing my personal regimen, here.)

I tip the scales at 66 kilograms, or 145 pounds. Immediately after a hard workout or race that is up to the two hour mark, I shake up 2 scoops of a product from Hammer Nutrition called “Recoverite,” and add one scoop of their Whey Protein in about 12 ounces of water. (Recoverite, like several other commercially available post-workout mixes, contains glutamine. Glutamine has been shown to reduce post workout muscle soreness. In my experience, it’s especially effective when taken in partnership with protein.) I then put on 1/2 a cup of Bob’s Red Mill steelcut oats, boiled in filtered water with 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and to which I also add about a tablespoon of raisins, a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed, a teaspoon of local organic raw honey, and a double shot of espresso. (OK, I don’t but that in the oatmeal.) I’ll also fry up or scramble an egg, and finish everything off with a large glass of water, usually Pelligrino sparkling water.

According to the numbers, my post-workout goals are:

  • 66 grams of carbs
  • 500 – 700 mgs of sodium
  • 30 grams of protein


My meal above provides:

  • 107 grams of carbohydrate
  • 800 mgs of sodium
  • 50 grams of protein


Although these numbers appear to be over-reaching, remember, your body doesn’t reset to zero every day, nor does it reset after each meal. My lunch on workout days is usually vegetarian, with steamed or roasted vegetables. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, which are a fabulous source of dense carbs.

A note about alcohol

rasputinDuring race season, gathering around a car with friends to swap stories about the race and share a cold, frosty beer from an icy cooler is a great thing. But understand that alcohol inhibits protein synthesis. If you’re going to indulge in  those post-race suds, I encourage you to first:

  • get your recovery carb and protein, preferably in beverage form, absolutely as soon as possible after the event
  • make sure you also consume enough water to make up for body weight lost while sweating
  • give it at least 15 minutes, preferably 30, before you pour in alcohol. Make sure the ABV of the beer is low.


When it comes to post-workout alcohol, just say no. It’s the recovery period that sees your body making strength gains and other adaptations to all that exercise. Make your recovery hydration and replenishing of high priority. Don’t throw a wrench in the works by adding alcohol.

[icon_box icon=”hb-moon-bike” icon_position=”left” align=”left”]Question: Tell us the post-workout or post-race refueling regimens that have proven to work for you. How did you arrive at them?[/icon_box]

Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.

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