6/14/16

Nail the basics - recovery nutrition



                                                                                                   (picture source)

Most athletes don't nail their recovery nutrition like they can nail a workout.

Whereas the purpose of recovery nutrition is to help an athlete refuel, rehydrate, repair and build, athletes often fall short on recovery nutrition due to a rushed lifestyle, poor planning, loss of an appetite, or the tendency to reward or restrict food.

Coupled with a body that is mentally and physically exhausted after a hard training session, it's no surprise that athletes find it easier to make the time to train than to make the time to plan smart recovery meals and snacks.

Although recovery nutrition appears to have evolved in a precise science (not to mention that everything related to nutrition has become far more complicated than it should be), taking into consideration age, gender, environmental factors, fitness level, workout intensity and duration, endurance athletes should recognize that in a real world setting, you can not eat perfectly per "scientific recommendations" after every workout.


Seeing that many athletes have an all or nothing approach to nutrition ("if I can't be perfect, why bother?"), here are a few simple tips basics on scientific recommendations to help you apply basic recovery nutrition tips to your crazy, busy and stressful life.
Ultimately, when you recover well, you can train more consistently and when you train more consistently, you improve your fitness.

And who doesn't love an improvement in fitness?


HYDRATION

Science: 

For every 1 lb weight loss (pre workout weight minus post workout weight), replace it with 16-20 ounces of fluid.

Nail it tips: 
-Your total amount of fluid consumption to replace post workout should be spread out throughout several hours, not consumed all at once.

-Be mindful that you are also losing glycogen from the muscles and liver when you train long, which affects post workout weight. Don't overthink the drink - just drink.

-If you are losing more than 4% body weight during a workout or gaining weight post workout, you need speak to a sport RD regarding your sport nutrition fuel and hydration intake during workouts.

-Be aware of the mental and physical signs of dehydration.
-On a daily basis, it's recommended to consume 3.7L for men and 2.7L for women each day for adequate hydration.
-Adding additional sodium (start with ~1/8 tsp salt) to your pre and post workout snack/drink can help with rehydration if you are an excessive sweater, as well as curbing salty cravings that may appear post workout or later in the day. A glass of OJ after a sweaty intense or long workout (with 1/4 tsp of salt) is one of my favorite rehydration beverages.

-Every long workout is an opportunity to understand your hydration needs. Don't wait until race week to guess how much/little you need to drink during your race to perform well. This should have been figured out months in advance and tweaked throughout your peak training.
Consult with a RD if you struggle to understand your hydration needs - a board certified sport dietitian who specializes in your sport can help you out.
-Adding ~1/8-1/4 tsp of salt or 190-380mg sodium (I use pink Himalayan salt) to each 24-28 ounce bottle of sport drink/water may help you retain more fluids of you are a heavy and salty sweater. You may also need to increase your overall fluid intake (not calories) to 28-32 ounces of fluid per hour.
-If you are not a great water drinker, add fresh lemon or lime to your drinks, opt for seltzer or mineral water or add a splash of juice to your water. 

CARBS

Science: 

It can take up to 24 hours or more to completely restock muscle glycogen stores after an intense or long workout.

-Aim for 1-1.2 g/kg of carbs, every 90 minutes in the 4-5 hours following a workout.
Nail it tips:
-If you are working out for 1-2.5 hours (ex. typical "weekly" workout), it's best to consume a recovery meal with protein and carbs (and some fat) within 60ish minutes post workout. Although some exceptions will apply that a recovery snack then meal is encouraged, most athletes can go right for a meal post workout.

-Understand the best foods that will digest the best after your workout when you do the following workouts: intense workout, long workout, early morning workout, late evening workout, mid day or lunch time workout, EZ workout. 

-If you are recovering from a 2.5+ hour long workout (ex. typical "weekend" workout), the next few hours post workout are key for optimizing recovery. Carb and protein intake are critical for recovery and repair.

-Avoid being the one meal a day post workout type of athlete (ex. minimal food post workout and then one big meal in the evening or the opposite, one huge meal post workout and then no appetite the rest of the day). Frequent meals, low in fiber and fat, along with mini meals/snacks are key to recovery without affection digestion.

-If you find yourself with no or little appetite post workout, opt for foods that will sit well like a glass of OJ, a handful of granola, rice, applesauce or fruit for carbohydrates. 

PROTEIN
Science: -Dietary protein ingestion immediately post workout can assist in the skeletal muscle adaptive response to training. Regardless of the workout, your recovery protein can also help meet your daily protein needs.
Many athletes fall short on daily protein intake.  Protein intake should be around 1.3-1.8g/kg/bw a day for athletes and around 25-30g of protein per meal. 

Nail it tips:
-Aim for 25-30g of protein within 30-45 minutes post workout and additional 15-20g protein every 2-3 hours for the next 6 hours (with carbohydrates) to maximize recovery.

-Plan your favorite go-to protein options for immediately post workout as well as for the hours post workout. Be mindful that the heat, the intensity of the workout and your overall appetite (or lack thereof) can affect your ability to tolerate and crave/want protein post workout.

-For a sensitive stomach, choose as soft or liquid as possible. Most athletes will find that liquids will digest easier than solid food, especially in the summer heat after a hot workout. Whey or vegan protein, scrambled eggs (or tofu), yogurt (or a yogurt based drink), milk or cottage cheese (great for salty cravings post workout) are easy go-to options. Always choose your options based on what your body can tolerate the best.

-Be mindful to continue eating protein throughout the 4-5 hours post workout and in your evening meal. 



Nail the basics: 
Be mindful that after a workout, your recovery window is open all day!
That is - everything between two key workout is "recovery".

The best way to nail your recovery nutrition is to plan ahead.

Because most athletes spend more time focusing on the workout itself than on what will assist in helping the body absorb the training stress (ex. sport nutrition and pre and post workout fuel and hydration), I suggest to write down what you will eat in the 2 hours before a workout and in the 4 hours after your long workout.

If you tend to finish your workouts exhausted or starving, it's in your best interest to have your recovery snacks and meals prepared (or easy to prep) ahead of time as you know what happens to your food choices when you don't plan ahead (especially after a long/hard workout).

Here's your get-started recovery nutrition planning guide:
60 minutes post workout: 
Fluid intake: ____________
Carb and protein snack or meal: ______________

1-2 hours post workout: 
Fluid intake: ______________
Carb and protein snack or meal: ______________

2-4 hours post workout: 
Fluid intake: ______________
Carb and protein snack or meal: ______________