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How can I optimize my carb intake after cycling for rapid recovery with limited time?

To boost acute recovery, aim to consume carbs at a rate of 1–1.2g/kg body weight within the first hour post-exercise. Sustain this intake every hour, up to 3-4 hours after exercise, to maximize (muscle) glycogen resynthesis and storage.

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Written by: The Athlete’s FoodCoach, on 22-05-2024
Sugary raisin buns with a cup of coffee and some butter

Why is it important to boost glycogen replenishment when I have limited time to recover?

The process of complete muscle glycogen synthesis takes 24 hours or longer, particularly with muscle damage or modest carbohydrate intake. However, glycogen replenishment is essential for maintaining exercise performance and training quality in subsequent exercise bouts. Research indicates that immediate carbohydrate intake after exercise leads to significantly greater glycogen resynthesis rates compared to delayed intake in short-term recovery.

How do I get the carbs in my short recovery period on point?

Consume carbs at a rate of 1–1.2g/kg body weight within the first hour post-exercise and to sustain this intake every hour, up to 3-4 hours after exercise. Consider following routine to boost glycogen replenishment:

  1. Moment 1 = Directly after exercise: Take your first carbohydrate rich snacks to reach 1-1.2 g carbs per kg of body weight. For easy application, prepare your snacks in advance or pick ready to go products like a banana, gingerbread, raisin bun or a bar. Combine your snack with a sugary drink, which can be useful during times of surpassed appetite as well as to start your hydration. In general, aim to take 1 to 2 carb rich snacks combined with a glass of lemonade.
  2. Moment 2 = 1 hour after exercise: Take your second recovery meal rich in carbs (1-1.2 g/kg body weight) and include protein. This meal may not be as big as you are used to, but keep in mind this is part of the strategy. You have to get your next meal in one hour already!
  3. Moment 3 = 2 hour after exercise: Take your third carbohydrate rich meal or snack which again contains 1-1.2 g/kg body weight. When you do not feel hungry, opt for an energy dense snack like sugary fruit yoghurt, a sugary drink or an energy bar.
  4. Moment 4 = 3 hour after exercise: Time window and strict timings are almost over, time to take your 4th carbohydrate rich moment. Aim to consume at least 1-1.2 g/kg body weight, but more is also fine. This moment can for instance be your dinner, with a proper plate of pasta!
  5. Snacks and drinks: When you have time (and space) left to recover, consider an evening snack rich in carbs to support glycogen recovery. Time to sleep and get energized for the next day!

Use The FoodCoach App to structure your training and receive customized post-cycling meal recommendations. Log the products of all four moments within your first meals after cycling in your FoodCoach nutrition plan and let The FoodCoach App guide you daily to bring focus and translate personal carb needs into real food and meals. Experiment with timing and different types of carbs and pay attention to how your body responds. This allows you to tailor your nutrition to your unique needs and preferences. Keep in mind, every meal is a chance to enhance your performance!

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Popular carb-rich meals after cycling

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