Four to six weeks out from a key event and we certainly do not want to go into a workout with lingering fatigue and a tired, dehydrated and glycogen depleted body from poor recovery from a preceding workout.
Perhaps you know this time as the "window of opportunity" to optimize training-induced adaptations and to experience possible body composition changes.
Although the post-workout period is an important part of eating, don't be fooled that it is the only opportunity to keep your body in good health, to maintain good energy levels and to assist in recovery.
Your recovery "window" is actually open all day!
Let this be a reminder to triathletes and runners who go out for a long workout on the weekend and then recover with a large meal which leaves you stuffed for 6+ hours later (or the opposite - athlete has no appetite post workout and 3-4 hours go by without eating and then the appetite hits hard and the athlete eats everything and anything in sight).
Of course, it is a good idea to kick-start the recovery process soon after your workout is complete with a recovery snack or meal and to properly rehydrate but don't forget to continue to focus on the diet as recovery is everything and anything that happens between two workouts.
Whereas much of the research on post-workout nutrient timing is dedicated to describing a scientific ideal ratio of carbohydrates and protein for glycogen repletion and for muscle protein synthesis, (respectively), it's important that athletes have different "recovery nutrition" protocols for each phase of training.
Right now in the triathlon season, (hopefully) athletes are working on building a solid foundation. We call this our transition phase. The intensity and volume is low and the focus is on skills, form, mobility and strength. After the off-season, athletes should be focused on creating good life and training habits to promote consistency with training throughout the upcoming season. Athletes should also prioritize good eating habits to keep the body in good health (injuries and/or sickness are very common in athletes who do too much too soon after the off-season or neglect a healthy diet and lifestyle habits as training becomes more structured).
Even though there is a heavy strength component to training in the foundation phase (swim, bike, run included alongside general strength work in the gym/home), athletes should not experience great muscle tension or damage with each workout.
Although athletes may experience some muscle soreness as the body slowly adapts to training, the nutritional goal post-workout is simply to optimize an adaptation to training. Laterin the season, the overall training load (intensity and volume) will be much greater and quick recovery methods are critical to ensure consistency in training with significant performance gains (and to keep the body in good health). But early in the season, recovery nutrition is heavily focused on keeping the body in good health so that the body can remain consistent with training.
To apply this science to real world, it is important that you focus on good recovery nutrition in the form of a real meal post workout. It is important to understand how your hunger and food choices are affected by your workouts and how your lifestyle schedule impacts your eating choices.
Although exceptions may apply (ex. a recovery drink or small snack before a meal), the foundation phase (or "base training" as many athletes say) should not induce a great amount of overall or lingering training stress in the form of inflammation, muscle/tissue damage and glycogen depletion so the macronutrients in the diet can be rather flexible.
Perhaps after a swim you may find that you need a little more protein and fat with moderate carbs to help a starving belly, whereas after a run in the cold, you may desire comforting carbohydrates with a little protein and fat to warm-up your belly. After an indoor, sweaty workout, you may find that you want something light and refreshing.
When it comes to what to eat post-workout during this phase of training, put your focus into creating healthy eating habits that will help you stay consistent with training, while keeping your body in good health.
Don't worry so much about the ratios of grams carbohydrates to protein.
Create a balanced meal that works for you.
To help get you started:
Aim for around 25-30g protein, 50-80g carbs and 10-15g fat in a recovery meal and work from there. Decide when/if you need more or less of protein, carbs and fat based on your appetite post workout (Again - recovery from workouts at this phase in training should not induce a large amount of fatigue/inflammation so you should be able to focus on your biological hunger versus training-induced hunger/depletion).
The ultimate goal is that by your next phase of training, you will have created a solid foundation of training with a great understanding of your daily diet needs. And when you start your next phase of training, you will feel more comfortable incorporating more nutrition before, during (sport nutrition products) and after your workouts to support your metabolic needs from the added training stress that will help advance performance gains.
In my next blog, I will share three recovery meals and workouts that kept me training consistently last week.