As an athlete, weekend warrior, or recreational fitness enthusiast, you’re investing time into improving your skills and fitness for optimal performance and a healthier life. To get the most out of that investment, it is equally important to invest time into recovering adequately with nutrition.
As you train, your muscles use up glycogen, their main fuel source. You lose electrolytes and water through sweat, and both protein synthesis and breakdown will be stimulated. Keep your competitive edge – refueling properly will help you to:
· Replenish nutrients necessary for recovery
· Keep your immune system strong
· Reduce the risk of muscle strain or injury
· Improve athletic performance today and on future training days
Immediately after exercise, your muscles will need a quick source of carbohydrate and protein. It might seem more intuitive to focus your recovery meal around protein, but in reality, carbohydrate is what fuels your muscles and allows you to perform at your best.
Skipping carbs or not getting enough or the right kind will result in lower glycogen replenishment by up to 50%, decreasing your performance ability the next time you train.
Focus on high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates and high-quality protein immediately after training. High GI carbohydrates are absorbed quickly and will provide a fast source of glycogen to your muscles. Other meals during the day should include lower GI carbohydrates to ensure your diet is balanced.
Here’s how a properly planned recovery meal or snack can help you:
Carbohydrate: Replenishes glycogen stores and inhibits muscle protein breakdown.
Protein: Increases protein synthesis and decreases protein breakdown for optimal muscle repair and adaptation.
Fluids: Replenishes water and electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise.
Sodium: Replaces sodium lost in sweat during exercise.
Antioxidants: Protect cell membranes and the immune system, minimizing the effects of free radicals produced during exercise.
Limit Fat in your Recovery Meal: Fat may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and protein.
Omega-3: May reduce inflammation. Choose foods high in omega-3s for non-recovery meals.
Recipe for Success
Try to have your recovery meal within the first 30 minutes after training / exercising. My “Back to Basics Recovery Smoothie” is a great way to refuel, providing a quick source of carbohydrate and plenty of protein for optimal recovery.
1. Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. (2012). Recovery Nutrition[PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.csipacific.ca/wp-content/uploads/pp/performance-point-nutrition-1211-recovery.pdf
2. Canadian Sport Institute Pacific. (2006). Recovery Nutrition [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.csipacific.ca/wp-content/uploads/pp/performance-point-nutrition-0610-recovery.pdf