The race is over. You’ve given all you had. You pushed your body to the limit. What’s next?
Proper post-exercise nutrition as much important as the two previous stages pre- and during- exercise fueling. Show your body appreciation and give it exactly what it needs and deserves for the work it’ve done.
Learn about how to maximize your recovery through the lenses of sports nutrition.
First 30 minutes after the exercise stops are extremely important in recovery. There are five main goals we are trying to accomplish during this stage:
Replace expanded Carbohydrate Stores
Take in carbohydrates that are high on GI: potatoes, rice and grains are great choices.
Take in 1/2 – 3/4 body weight in grams of carbs within 30 minutes of exercise (ex: 150 lbs = 75 – 112 grams).
Liquid form is preferred.
Take in 500 ml of liquid for every pound lost during exercise.
Provide Amino Acids
After carbohydrate stores get depleted in the working muscles, the body begins to break down protein structures within the muscle cells, cannibalising itself.
Protein, particularly BCAA should be taken in at a carb-to-protein ratio of about 4:1 or 5:1.
Best sources are Egg or Whey Protein (easiest to absorb).
Begin Replacing Electrolytes
Electrolytes are critical for muscle contraction and relaxation.
Drinking juice or eating fruit will easily replace nearly all of the electrolytes, with the except of sodium.
Reduce the Acidity of Body Fluids
During exercise, body fluids trend increasingly towards acidity.
Fruits & vegetables have a net alkaline-enhancing effect (reduce acidity).
Below is the table of GL (glycemic load) and GI (glycemic index) of alkaline-enhancing foods:
During this stage the emphasis is still primarily on the intake of solid carbs and proteins.
See the alkaline-enhancing foods table above to pick net-alkaline starchy vegetables with high GI that you might enjoy.
Good choices for carbs and proteins are:
Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Yams and Dried Fruits
Fish, Shellfish, Egg whites and Turkey Breast
The protein intake is recommended within the same ratio 4:1 or 5:1 with carbohydrates.
The most common mistake here is to keep eating a high GI diet. Right after the exercise your main focus was on carbohydrates, and specifically the ones that are high on GI. Those foods are great for refueling your glycogen tanks, however they don’t bring much of nutrients. Now you need to shift you focus to eating more nutrient-dense foods, filling your body with minerals and vitamins. The more you demand from your body, the more important it becomes.
The optimal food choices here are:
Any fruit is good so pick and choose whichever you prefer
Vibrant color ones: red, yellow, green and orange.
Stay away from white colored veggies
Nuts, Seeds and Berries
Macadamia nuts and walnuts are rich in omega-3.
Avoid beans and peanuts
Lean Protein from Animal Sources
Rich in BCAA and essential amino acids:
Game animal and Free-ranging animal meats, Ocean or Stream-caught Fish & Shellfish, Turkey breast
High in Omega-3:
Cold-water Fish, Beef Liver, Eggs enriched with omega-3
Fish or Flaxseed Oil
The five MAIN GOALS for this stage:
Maintain Glycogen Stores
Assuming you’ve done a good job eating enough of carbohydrates from good sources in the previous hours, less carbs are required to maintain your glycogen stores.
To maintain, aim for low GL fruits and vegetables.
Maintain a healthy pH
Fruits and vegetables reduce blood acidity protecting your muscles and bones from losing nitrogen and calcium.
Omega-3 have been shown to reduce inflammation.
The ratio between omega-6 to omega-3 should be approximately 2:1
To prevent your body from cannibalizing itself in attempt to repair damaged muscle tissue, it requires optimal amount of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and essential amino acids.
Optimize body weight
The lower your body mass, the less to carry. Maintaining low body fat percentage, in most endurance sports can lead to improved performance.
Make It A Habit
Create a non-negotiable habit of fueling your workouts. You will notice your energy balance throughout the day is enhanced, training and racing performance improves, it will get easier to manage body composition and you will experience fewer cravings for foods later in the day, you try to avoid.
Last Tip: Sleep Recovery & Protein
If your training load is heavy, you struggle to sleep, or simply want to maximize recovery and minimize stress, then begin and end your days with protein.
20 grams of protein before bed
20 grams of protein when you first wake up
Protein suppresses the negative effect of cortisol (stress hormone) and helps you to switch from fight-or-flight response to rest-n-digest.
The Paleo Diet for Athletes: the Ancient Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance, by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel, Rodale, 2012, p. 63.