This week, our special guest bloggers, Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC, authors of 100 Questions and Answers about Sports Nutrition & Exercise, offer expert tips on how to maximize recovery.
Every athlete wants to maximize his/her recovery and this is possible by consuming the proper post-workout snack. Thirty to sixty minutes after a workout, an athlete should consume a snack that is high in carbohydrate and moderate in protein. Fluids should also be consumed to ensure adequate rehydration. These strategies have proven to be very effective for those athletes exercising more than one time per day several days per week or after intense training sessions lasting 30 minutes or longer. Knowing more about the four R’s of recovery nutrition – replace, restore, repair, and rebuild – will allow athletes to select the most appropriate post-workout fuel and fluids.
- Replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat
- Restore carbohydrate (glycogen) utilized during exercise
- Repair and rebuild muscle tissue broken down during exercise
Replacing fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat enhances rehydration and recovery. For most this can easily be accomplished by drinking water and consuming salt in foods and snacks throughout the day. Ideally, athletes should be consuming enough fluids during a workout to prevent dehydration. The best way to ensure that you are not losing too many fluids during exercise is to weigh yourself before and after a workout (nude or in dry clothing). The goal is for your weight to be stable. If it increases then you are consuming too many fluids and if it decreases then you need to consume more fluids during exercise. For every pound lost during exercise, you must consume 24oz of fluid. The extra 8oz of fluid will offset addition respiratory and urinary losses post-workout.
Restoring the carbohydrate (glycogen) utilized during exercise is imperative for recovery. The first 30 to 60 minutes post-workout is the optimal time for the athlete to begin restoring the muscle and liver glycogen lost during exercise and commencing the process of repairing and rebuilding the muscle tissue. Glycogen stores take approximately 20-22 hours to replenish fully as long as the athlete is consuming the recommended amount of carbohydrates and eating consistently throughout the remainder of the day.
Recovery plans do differ depending upon the length and duration of activity. Athletes exercising frequently and/or intensely should consume 1-1.2g/kg/h of carbohydrate for the first 4 hours post-glycogen depleting exercise. Then regular meal and snack consumption will help further restore the glycogen. Glucose and sucrose (found in starchy foods) are twice as effective fructose (juices) in restoring glycogen. Research shows that adding protein to a recovery snack does help rebuild and repair the muscle tissue, but consuming greater than 20 grams of protein at a given time does not further benefit the recovery process.
Excellent recovery snacks include PB & J sandwich, chocolate milk, Greek yogurt parfait, fruit and yogurt smoothie, cereal, milk and fruit, fruit with peanut butter, and nut and dried fruit trail mix.
Missing post-workout snacks may result in premature muscle fatigue and prolonged soreness caused by incomplete glycogen restoration. A proper recovery plan that includes refueling and rehydrating strategies will increase training adaptations and prevent muscle fatigue.
Sara is training for a long distance swimming event and is practicing 1 to 2 times per day 5 days per week. She is feeling tired, sore and fatigued at the end of the week. Her nutrition plan reveals that she is consuming enough fluid throughout the day and during her workout, but is not consistently consuming post-workout fuel. Weighing 125# (57kg) Sara needs 57-68g of carbohydrate and 15-20 grams of protein in her post-workout snack. Appropriate snacks would include PB & J sandwich and 8-16oz of skim or 1% milk or Greek yogurt, banana and a granola bar.
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More information can be found in 100 Questions and Answers About Sports Nutrition and Exercise by Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC.
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