Most athletes know of the importance of eating before exercise, however, what and when you eat after exercise can be just as important. While the pre-exercise meal can ensure that adequate glycogen stores are available for optimal performance (glycogen is the the source of energy most often used for exercise), the post-exercise meal is critical to recovery and improves your ability to train consistently.Consuming protein has other important uses after exercise. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense, prolonged exercise. It can also increase the absorption of water from the intestines and improve muscle hydration. The amino acids in protein can also stimulate the immune system, making you more resistant to colds and other infections.
Bottom Line If you are looking for the best way to refuel your body after long, strenuous endurance exercise, a 4:1 combo of carbohydrate and protein seems to be your best choice. While solid foods can work just as well as a sports drink, a drink may be easier to digest make it easier to get the right ratio and meet the 2-hour window.