By Cynthia Lair
Research has shown that our muscles are able to replenish depleted glycogen more quickly when we eat or drink carbohydrate-containing foods within the first 30 minutes after an event, game, or practice. During this time, muscles will convert carbohydrates into glycogen up to three times faster than if the player waits until two hours after the game to eat. There are two explanations for this phenomenon:
- Increased blood flow to the muscle cells brings more nutrients to make glycogen.
- The muscle cells are more sensitive immediately after play to the substances that transform nutrients into glycogen.
The bottom line: eat whole-food, carbohydrate-containing snacks as soon as possible after the game or practice has finished. Picture appetizer-size amounts that include a small amount of protein. The best ratio is one part protein per four parts carbohydrate. The protein stimulates insulin, which helps glucose transform into muscle glycogen. Skip sugary treats after the game. Remember that the body has been stressed, in a good way, and nutrients have been used up. Trying to replenish with empty calories does nothing to rebuild what has been lost and leaves the body yearning for more.
Here are ideas for easy post-play snacks as well as a recipe for a fruit-and-nut bar that has plenty of complex carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Peanut Butter Cranberry Zoom Zoom Bars
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup dried coconut flakes
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup crispy brown rice cereal
- ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
- ½ cup brown rice syrup
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Spread the oats, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, shaking every few minutes so that they toast evenly.
- Add the coconut to the pan and toast for another 2–3 minutes until the coconut just turns golden (watch closely!). Remove the baking sheet when the nuts and coconut are fragrant.
- Let cool slightly and place in a large bowl. Add cranberries and brown rice crispy cereal and toss all together.
- Taste the peanut butter you plan to use. Is it salty? If yes, don’t add the extra salt. If not, add it now.
- Place all wet ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and stir constantly until an even consistency is achieved. Stir the thick wet ingredients into the dry and combine until evenly mixed.
- Plop onto a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper, and press the mixture with moist hands into a ½” thick square about 12” x 12”.
- Let cool completely. Pop into the refrigerator to hasten cooling.
- Cut into 2” x 3” squares and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to keep bars from drying out.
20 minutes. Makes 24 bars.
Cynthia Lair is an assistant professor for the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University. She is also the author of Feeding the Whole Family (Sasquatch Books, 2008), host of the online cooking show Cookus Interruptus (cookus.tv), and a frequent speaker. See cynthialair.com.