CSEP – Certified Exercise Physiologist
Nutrition for Recovery
Proper nutrition is a key component of an effective training program. What you eat after a workout compliments the hard work you’ve just put in. It’s important to address these areas after a training session so that your body can
recover and you come back stronger and healthier for the next session. Knowing what, when and how much to eat can be confusing so I’m going to break it down for you.
Nutrition for recovery has three main goals Refuel,
Rebuild, and Rehydrate. The combination of carbohydrates, protein, fluid and electrolytes allows the body to achieve those three goals. Of course training varies from day to day and a recovery routine will be different based on the demands of the specific day.
Here are some guidelines to follow that will help you to determine what your needs are when it comes to training and competition recovery.
When it comes to fuel for short term, vigorous exercise, carbohydrates are the body’s go to source because they are easily accessible. If the carbohydrates we eat aren’t used up as fuel right away, they get converted into glycogen and stored in our muscles for later use. Once glycogen stores are full,
excess carbohydrate will then be stored as fat. Glycogen gets used up in the first few minutes of short intense bouts of exercise such as sprinting and weight lifting. Fat gets used in slower endurance type activities such as long slow jogs or hikes. As these stores get depleted during a training session its important to replenish them so that the next time your body demands energy the
stores are loaded up and ready to fuel the muscles.
Protein promotes muscle growth and repair as well as optimizes glycogen storage.
Combining carbohydrates and protein after exercise promotes recovery due to adequate carbohydrates to replenish energy stores while protein provides amino acids required for protein synthesis. Depending on the nature of the training session a carb to protein ratio of 4:1 – 2:1 has shown to promote recovery. A ratio of 4:1 would be required for long duration aerobic endurance
training, whereas a 2:1 ratio would be beneficial after training shorter, more intense bursts of speed and power.
Water is the most important nutrient for life. Some of waters many functions include regulating body temperature, lubricating joints and transporting nutrients and waste through the body. You need to make sure you restore fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during a training session.
Dehydration is detrimental to performance, thus it’s important to monitor hydration levels before, during and after exercise. Monitoring urine output and colour can determine your hydration level. A large volume of light coloured urine usually means you are adequately hydrated. If urine is dark in colour it is a sign that you need to drink more water.
Fluid is not the only thing lost through sweat, potassium and sodium, electrolytes that are essential for muscle contraction are also lost from the body through sweat. To maintain efficient muscle function and avoid muscle cramping sodium and potassium levels must be replenished.
Now that you know the science behind nutrition and recovery you need to know the when, what and how much to eat after a training session.
Begin recovery with a snack or meal 15 – 60 minutes post exercise.
Fluids should be consumed continuously throughout the day as well as before, during and after a training session.
A combination of carbs and protein such as:
· Turkey sandwich
· Chocolate milk
· Yogurt, fruit and cereal
· A cup of pasta and 3 ounces of protein
Potassium rich foods include:
· Orange juice
A carb to protein ratio of 4:1 – 2:1, depending on the activity.
Everyday fluid needs of the human body are 0.5 – 1.0 ounces of fluid per pound of body weight, however athletes need to increase fluid consumption on training days. When training, athletes should drink 20 ounces an hour or two before a session, 6 ounces (4-6 gulps) every 15 minutes during the session, and 20 ounces for every pound of sweat lost during the session.