Recovery Nutrition

Your challenge this week is to focus on recovery nutrition.

What do you think is the most crucial time of a training session? Is it the first few minutes, the very end, the warm-up, or somewhere in the middle of your workout that is the most important? It may surprise you to know the most important time is the 30 minutes directly after your workout is finished. The time from your warm-up to the conclusion of your workout is obviously important. Improper form, too low an intensity, too high an intensity, unsafe behavior, and other factors can ruin the effectiveness of a workout. But even if do all of that perfectly, you can still negate the benefits of a workout by not using the 30 minute window following your workout to replenish nutrients lost during your training session.

The latest research on nutrition for endurance exercise points to the following to consider when developing a post recovery nutrition protocol:

1) The “window” of time when nutrition is most effective for recovery

Recover fastest by consuming recovery nutrients immediately after you finish exercise. During a training session you are taxing your body and using up its energy stores (glycogen). Once your workout is finished, you must replenish what you lost in order for your body to begin the process of repair. In the 30 minutes immediately following your workout, your insulin sensitivity is at its highest and when your body is in this state, whatever nutrients you take in will be easily transported directly to your muscles, liver, and wherever else it is needed. You will suck it up like a sponge.

If you do not eat or drink the right things soon after your workout, the window of opportunity will close and it will take you much longer to replenish glycogen stores and other nutrients. This will dramatically increase the time it takes for you to recover from that workout, decrease the performance benefit of the workout, and affect your next workouts.

2) The optimal ratio of carbs to protein post-exercise

Protein is just as important as carb intake after exercise. Whether you’re an elite endurance athlete or a recreational athlete you will benefit from getting extra protein.

You must consume Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and protein for post-workout nutrition because the BCAAs have been shown to improve muscle glycogen replenishment without requiring the intake of lots of extra carbs. If you’re looking to lose weight, this is essential because you want to be careful about how many carbs you are taking in daily. Either way, BCAAs can help to minimize the catabolic, muscle-degrading response that typically comes from running.

A recent study found that consuming carbs with protein (80 g/carbs, 28 g/protein) after endurance exercise was much more effective at replenishing glycogen in the muscles than carbs alone (80 g/carbs) or a higher amount of carbs (108 g/carbs). Protein supports the gene signaling pathways that are involved in protein and glycogen synthesis. Consuming protein with BCAAs ensures you get your fuel stores back up so you will feel energetic and ready for your next workout.

A ratio of 1:1 carbs to protein may be ideal for recreational athletes, whereas greater carb intake is indicated for intense endurance athletes. A 2:1 or 3:1 (4:1 in very long and intense activities may be warranted) carb to protein ratio may be ideal for endurance athletes, which translates into 0.8 to 1.5 g/kg/lean body weight of simple carbs with 0.3 to 0.5 g/kg/ lean body weight of protein that contains BCAAs. Naturally, this ratio will vary based on individual needs and goals. (Divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2 to calculate your kg.)

3) Opt for whey protein over casein protein

Opt for whey protein over casein for a faster digestive pattern during the post-exercise window of opportunity. Whey protein is responsible for a greater boost to protein synthesis upon ingestion, whereas casein protein releases its amino acids at a slower rate just as complex carbs take longer to digest, counteracting the point of immediate post-exercise nutrition.

4) Milk may not do the body good

Although milk and chocolate milk have been suggested as ideal protein sources, they are both extremely allergenic and inflammatory. If they aren’t organic, they may contain growth hormones and other growth factors that you need to avoid. Whey, which actually comes from milk, is preferred because it is closer in nature to human milk, which in the early stage of lactation is 90 percent whey. This similarity is a primary reason that whey is preferred over cow milk, of which only about 20 percent of the protein content is from whey.

5) Water Water Water

Water is essential to the anti-inflammation and healing process. Prioritize 1-2 water bottles per hour, with added electrolytes (you can use Salt Sticks/Base salts or natural sources - coconut water, Calm, topical magnesium, sea salt, etc), until you have completely restored your pre-workout weight.

6) Avoid Caffeine Post Exercise

Finally, be sure to avoid drinking coffee, energy drinks, or anything with caffeine immediately post-workout because this can inhibit recovery. Research suggests caffeine elevates cortisol, the stress hormone, that you want to help clear as quickly as possible.