Refueling at the Right Time

August 27, 2008

For dancers (and athletes of all kinds), staying strong isn’t just a matter of what you eat but when you eat it. To prevent injury, relieve soreness, and maintain healthy, lean muscle tissue, sports nutritionists recommend eating as soon as possible, within 30-40 minutes, after intense exercise. During that window, muscle cells are primed to take in glycogen, a key energy storage molecule. Found in complex carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grain breads and fresh fruit, glycogen replenishes energy and promotes the absorption of protein, which in turn gets to work at repairing damaged cells. The optimal post-workout snack, researchers say, contains a four to one ratio of complex carbs and protein. So, if dance class ends at 5 o’clock and dinner’s not till 7:30, grab a balanced bite in between, like a banana with peanut butter on a whole grain rice cake, or (one of my favorites), plain yogurt with raspberries and granola.