The Forgotten Formula



It’s Saturday afternoon, and you just walked into your house after a 30 minute run. The sun has left you doused in sweat, the concrete has made your knees sore, and you’re panting like a dog after playing an intense game of fetch. You feel like a triumphant soldier coming from battle.  So, naturally, you go right to the fridge and consume the last piece of chocolate cake along with a big bowl of ice cream. Guilt doesn’t cross your mind once because, hey, you earned it. Others, like my mother, are the complete opposite. After a run in the hot sun, just the word “food” makes them want to hurl. So naturally, for them, they go hours before they get something in their stomachs.

These are two of the most common flaws that people have in regards to post-workout nutrition: consuming everything in sight after a workout, feeling they’ve deserved it, or not eating anything because they feel nauseous. Both of these extremes need to be avoided in order to properly refuel worked muscles, reduce fatigue, and maintain an optimal healthy lifestyle.

According to LIVESTRONG.COM, a foundation that empowers men and women to live healthy lives, when you undergo strenuous exercise such as running, biking, swimming, or weightlifting, small fibers in your muscles become damaged. Repair begins when the muscles are at rest again, allowing them to rebuild stronger. In order to get stronger, however, they need fuel, specifically protein and carbohydrates.

Running Times magazine explains that after workouts athletes do not take in enough protein for recovery. To fix this problem, the magazine suggests what is called the 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio:

  1. Divide your body weight (in pounds) by two = the number of grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming within 30 minutes after a workout.
  2. Take this number of carbs and divide it by four = the amount of grams of protein you should be consuming within that same time period.

If you weigh 125 pounds, for example, this means you need close to 63 grams of a healthy carbohydrate source and approximately 16 grams of a healthy protein source after an intense exercise. By healthy, this doesn’t mean filling up a large bowl of cocoa puffs with chocolate milk. Below are two example recipes that provide a well-balanced source of carbohydrates and protein.

Overnight Oats
Ingredients (for a 125 pound athlete):
⅓ cup of 5-grain oat blend
⅓ cup of Greek yogurt
¼ cup of milk (regular or chocolate)
Flavorings: banana and peanut butter, strawberries and honey, or any berry/fruit combination. You can also spice it up a little by adding some cinnamon or brown sugar.

Food Amount Grams of Carbs Grams of protein
Quaker Old-fashioned Oats ⅓ cup 20 5
Plain Chobani Greek Yogurt ⅓  cup 5+ 12
Non-fat milk ¼ cup 5+
Banana/Strawberries ½ banana/ 1 cup of strawberries 10+

Total: Carbs= 40+ Proteins= 16+

(This total is a rough estimate based on the nutrition facts located on the containers of each food.)

Slice the fruit after measuring it and combine all of the above ingredients in a container or jar and let them soak overnight for one serving. This will provide you with the optimal balance of protein and carbohydrates all within a fruity, tasty mix.

“It really is not difficult to eat properly,” says Callie Cooper, a long-distance track runner at the University of Florida. “With just a little bit of planning and effort, you can get everything you need without compromising your valuable time.”

Homemade Strawberry Smoothie
⅓ cup of raspberry yogurt
½ cup non-fat milk
1 handful of strawberries
1-2 scoops of protein
3-4 ice cubes

Amount Grams of Carbs Grams of Protein
Non-fat raspberry yogurt ½ cup 15+ 4
Non-fat milk ½ cup 6 4
Strawberries 1 cup 10+
EAS Whey Protein 1 scoop 7 13

Total: Carbs= 40+  Protein= 20+

According to Running Times magazine, Kara Goucher, the 2007 World Champion medalist and 2008 Olympic contender in the 10,000 meter long-distance run, found the cure to her tired legs in daily protein shakes: “I just feel like when I get protein right away after a workout, recovery happens so much quicker.”

You may not be an Olympian, an elite athlete, or competitive at all, but keeping track of your carb-to-protein post-workout recovery is vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So, the next time you open your fridge for a post-workout snack, remember the phrase: After dominating that five mile run, keep your carbs and proteins four to one.

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