Do you often feel too tired from your last training session to get back out there and do it again?
Struggle to get up in the morning after a heavy session in the gym the day before? Takes you a week to recovery from a race?
Sounds like you would benefit from some of the following strategies.
When we exercise we put our body under a lot of stress. Recovery nutrition is key to restoring energy, promoting optimal recovery, and adapting to training. This is even more important if you have another training session or competition within 8 hours or you are backing it up the next day with another heavy session or race.
The following strategies will help you get back out there faster and stronger than ever:
1: plan your recovery strategies.
Left to chance you are likely to under fuel, under hydrate and most likely not give your body the chance to rest and recover. Don’t rely on grabbing a snack from the vending machine or the gas station. Plan ahead, carry food and drinks with you and have a clear idea of what you are going to eat and drink when. Keeping your drinks cold in the summer will help with palatability.
2: identify your goals.
Are you trying to restore body nutrient and hydration losses? Or is the goal promoting adaptive responses to the stimulus? Clarity about your goal will guide the strategies.
3: Make sure you cover all the 4Rs of recovery.
REFUEL: The first hour after training is the ideal time to restore the glycogen used during exercise. This will help recover quicker and manage heavy training phases better. The first hour is key if you are planning to train again within 8 hours.
You want to consume a carbohydrate rich snack (at least 50g of carbohydrates) in the 2 hours post exercise, until you can return to normal meals. Moderate to high GI foods work best for this and they include bread, cereals, pasta, rice, flavoured milk or yoghurt, fruit, starchy veggies, juice, or sports drink,
REBUILD: exercise damages the muscles; protein is the building block required to repair them and make them stronger. Ideally you would have a protein rich meal within 1 hour of exercising, aiming for 15-40g of protein. If that is not possible, then a 15-20g protein snack is ideal. The amount of protein needed will depend on the type and duration of the session, your gender and body size.
Protein rich foods include eggs, dairy, meat, chicken, fish, tofu, protein powder or bars.
REHYDRATE: dehydration negatively impacts on performance, recovery and mental function. This is a particularly important aspect of recovery in hot climates like Queensland. Aim to consume 125% of the fluids lost in the first hour and a half post exercise sipping on either water or a rehydrating solution like a sports drink. A sodium rich rehydrating solution can be more effective, especially in hotter climates.
Alcohol does have a diuretic effect, so best kept to a light to moderate amount if consumed at all.
RESTORE: prioritising foods that are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants will support your immune system and reduce the inflammatory response triggered by exercise. Ideally you would eat a balanced diet high in anti-inflammatory foods (olive oil, fatty fish, nuts) and antioxidants (berries, green leafy veg, onion & garlic) most of the time. I would also minimise processed and deep-fried foods as they are pro-inflammatory.
Combine this with adequate sleep (7-9 hours, add 2 if you are an athlete) to provide your body with the opportunity to restore naturally and perform at its best day after day after day.
If you want to train hard, you need to fuel well before, during and after. Everything you eat can either help or hinder your performance. Whether you train for fun or have performance goals, choosing the right foods at the right time will help you skyrocket your performance. This can be a little confusing at times, so working with a professional can make light work of it.
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