Optimising nutrition for rest & recovery
Recovery nutrition is something that is perhaps just thought about in the context of professional athletes or those training for competitions or events but nutrition around exercise is important for the everyday athlete too.
Refuelling well after exercise has a profound effect on the body’s ability to repair and build muscle, minimise muscle soreness, reduce fatigue and optimise the performance in your next session.
Everyones specific needs will always differ depending on current body composition, desired composition, type of exercise and duration of exercise. Training age (how long you have been consistently performing these activities, e.g have you been a runner for 1 week or 10 years) will also impact how you feel post exercise and how extreme the effects of soreness and fatigue may be.
For most recreational exercisers however the following 4 pointers should help optimise your recovery and help you feel your best
The importance of hydration starts before you even hit the gym (or lace up the running shoes/clip into the bike). Its essential that you don’t go into exercise dehydrated as doing so can increase the risk of injury, cramps and general poor performance. If you exercise in the evening drink normally though the day (aiming for 2 litres of fluid minimum though the day) but ensure that around 400-500ml is consumed in the 2-4 hours before training. If you train in the morning ensure between 250ml & 400ml is consumed 30-60 minutes before your session.
Post workout try to re-hydrate as soon as possible and then drink consistently for the rest of the day. You can gauge your hydration levels based on the colour of your pee (not glam but it works), always looking for a pale straw/yellow colour. For most people and most gym sessions water is adequate however for longer workouts or endurance carbohydrate based drinks may be helpful.
When we exercise we use and deplete our carbohydrate stores within our muscle (glycogen stores), the extent of this is determined by how long/strenuous the exercise is but its wise to consider replacing carbohydrates after a workout. Especially if you have trained fasted in a morning.
Exercise is a stress on the body and causes damage to our muscle tissues, this is however a great stimulus for repairing and rebuilding which ultimately build our muscle mass and strength. To optimise repair/rebuild we need adequate protein in our diet both after a workout but also consistently throughout each day. I would recommend steady, regular intakes of protein as your primary focus, then add in a supplement such as a protein powder after your workouts if desired.
- Food ideas for post workout
- Banana with a handful of nuts
- Smoothie with banana and protein powder, made with water or milk
- Greek yoghurt (or plant alternative) with chopped fruit
- Eggs with wholegrain toast
- Salads with quinoa/rice, chicken or falafels/veggie balls
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