You’re slogging it out on the training track and you’re feeling great, but you’re looking to take your results to the next level.
Managing what you’re doing between sessions is a huge step towards getting the absolute most out of your workouts repeatedly.
We hear a lot about recovery at the elite level, that’s because it’s a cornerstone of performance. The right recovery results in a fresher, fitter body that can manage repeat efforts, back-to-back training sessions or short turnarounds on games or events.
Recovery nutrition is so much more than the immediate meal or snack following a session. Yes, this is important to get right and kick start the process, but the bigger picture, or overall nutritional intake requires much more attention.
For those who are training regularly, the ability to adapt from exercise, recover and gain lean mass can be elevated for 24-48 hours after a session. Put simply, this means that those who are active most days have the opportunity to maximise both their gains and recovery 24/7.
So, the question is; why should you be eating your way to recovery?
The goals of the recovery nutrition are to:
- Refuel, repair and rehydrate the body;
- Promote muscle repair and growth;
- Optimise adaptation from the training session; and
- Support immune function.
Now, as I said this is much more than how you replenish your body post-session, however any house needs a solid foundation so it’s important that we get that right.
Recovery nutrition recommendations following exercise:
- For those training once per day eat/replenish within 60 minutes.
- For those training twice per day eat/replenish within 30 minutes.
The content of your immediate nutrition is also important for maximum benefit. Your immediate post exercise nutrition should include good quality animal or plant protein, high fibre carbohydrates, plenty of fluids and electrolytes. We always want to add colour to each meal, but this is more about the regular, consistent benefits, than the immediate in this space.
Protein will help repair muscle damage, carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores, fluids replace sweat loss from a tough workout and electrolytes help us replace what we lost in sweat – it also helps us retain the fluid we drink.
Adequate carbohydrate intake following exercise also helps reduce cortisol levels which are increased. This has an important role in mitigating the increased risk of illness which comes with high and intense training loads.
Head to our hydration blog for more information on how to manage your fluid intake post-session.
Including some colour in that initial meal (fruits or vegetables) will help with your overall recovery picture by ensuring adequacy with key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are anti-inflammatory and play an essential role in the overall health, immunity and of course recovery space.
Maximising your recovery through nutrition:
There’s a few simple ways to ensure you’re replenishing your body throughout the week around your training program. Finding consistency is important and fuelling the right way is a vital step to recovering more effectively, training more consistently and achieving your goals.
- Protein consistency: aiming for 20-40 grams of protein consistently across the day (4-5 times). This is important for optimising recovery, muscle protein synthesis, strength gains and also appetite control.
- Colour: I’m really big on having colour at each meal and snack, to ensure general fruit and vegetable recommendations at a minimum are met – an often overlooked piece of the recovery puzzle. These foods are abundantly filled with antioxidants and bioactive compounds which are important in the overall recovery space.
- Wholegrain carbohydrates: These are not only about fuelling for your performance and replenishing glycogen stores post, these are also important for energy levels, appetite control and alertness across the week.
- Healthy unsaturated fats: Mono and polyunsaturated fats are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Think foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish and extra virgin olive oil. Having small amounts of these at each meal will help the overall recovery piece.
Not sure what else to be incorporating into your diet? There’s plenty of great foods that will promote recovery and fuel your overall performance. Things like oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) for their Omega-3 fatty acids, berries for their anthocyanin and extra virgin olive oil for its oleocanthal.
Be sure to plan your meals in relation to when you’ll be training, get plenty of variety, be consistent and enjoy your training!