10/1/09

Part 2: recovery and nutrition

This article follows my last article featured on Irongirl.com (and in the FREE Irongirl.com newsletter). I feel that the topic of nutrition, in regards to recovery, is as important (if not more than) as stretching, icing or whatever you choose to do to refuel, repair and refocus after a workout.
Let me know if you have any questions, I look forward to your comments on how you like to recover.

Recovery and Nutrition
Marni Sumbal, MS

When it comes to recovery after a workout, most athletes assume the best way to repair damaged tissue is to eat. While eating after a workout can restore glycogen stores and rebuild tissues for muscle growth, too much food or a little of the wrong foods may hinder your workouts. Due to unhealthy food cravings, improper timing of nutrition during the day and unbalanced, oversized meals after exercise, it is likely that your hard work during workouts may go unnoticed due to poor food choices after exercise.

1. Proper nutrition:

For workouts lasting less than 60 minutes, opt for a healthy 80-100 calorie snack after the workout.

* · If your workout is intense (more than 85 percent of max heart rate) or you anticipate a meal more than an hour after your workout, choose low-fat protein as your post-workout food choice.
* · If your workout is average intensity (around 70-85 percent of max heart rate) or you are planning to eat a balanced, calorie-controlled meal within an hour after the workout, focus on fiber and/or protein as your post-workout food choice.

For all workouts lasting more than 60 minutes, opt for protein (around 5-8 grams for every hour of training) as the main part of your post-workout snack.

Post-workout protein snacks include: cottage cheese, whey protein (recommended for workouts lasting more than 60 minutes), skim/soy milk, low-fat yogurt, nuts/seeds, eggs, lean meat/vegetarian meat, tofu or cheese/string cheese.

Post-workout fiber snacks include: berries, apples, a whole grain/organic granola bar (without icing or loaded with sugar alcohols), pears, figs, oats, oranges, raisins, air-popped popcorn, beans, seeds or carrots.

2. Hydration:

It is important to replace fluids after exercise. Although electrolytes are lost through sweat, skip the high-sugar sport drinks and choose water after a workout. In addition to 20-28 ounces of fluid for each hour of training, sip on a 24-ounce bottle of water within 15-30 minutes after exercise. Maltodextrin-rich sport drinks are recommended during all workouts lasting more than an hour, whereas water is recommended during workouts lasting less than an hour. As for obtaining necessary vitamins and minerals post-workout, choose a colorful meal, complete with protein and complex carbohydrates, and be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet on a daily basis. For workouts lasting more than two hours, be sure to drink water throughout the day to maintain and restore hydration status.

5. Omega Fatty Acids:

Fish is a must-have in the diet of non-vegetarian and non-vegan athletes, as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish (particularly EPA) have a positive influence on reducing inflammation. Exercise is beneficial for women, as it aids in disease prevention and maintain a healthy heart. Omega-3's are a good supplement to exercise because they help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, LDLs (bad cholesterol) and blood pressure, while increasing good HDL cholesterol. The healthy fats found in fish and fish oil can also help prevent stroke and risk for heart attack, in addition to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers. Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids are important for the health of your skin and brain functioning.

If you are a vegetarian, you may or may not decide to take fish oils, which do have the oil from a fish in them, on a daily basis, depending on your motive behind vegetarianism and avoiding animal-derived foods. However, flax (seeds or oil), tofu, greens, squash and walnuts are all good sources of omega's for both the vegetarian and meat-eater.

Alpha-linolenic acid is one of two essential fatty acids (the other is linoleic acid, an omega-6), which can help fight inflammation. In reference to food, the word "essential," such as essential amino acids or essential fats, is something that the body cannot manufacture on its own. These "essential" foods must be obtained through diet or supplements.

Foods containing omega's (many are vegetarian/vegan friendly) include: flaxseeds, ground and dried cloves, walnuts, flax, fish oil, cod liver, dried oregano, cauliflower, cabbage, romaine, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, halibut, snapper, scallops, tuna, shrimp, cod, salmon, strawberries, raspberries, miso, tofu and soybeans. *

*Some foods listed have more omega's than others, so be sure to give yourself a balanced diet.

Next time you leave the gym from a spin class, head home from a run on the track or finish a swim at the pool, be sure to reward your body with the best food possible to ensure a quick recovery. No workout is complete until you take the time to recover.