- Depleted our stores of glycogen in muscle and liver tissue
- Caused small micro-tears in muscle tissue
- Lost hydration and electrolytes
- Utilised micro-nutrition such as iron and calcium (depending on the type of training)
So, now what we need to do is replace what we have lost. Timing is the key factor here, as recovery is the most important pre-cursor for your performance in your next training session.
Immediately post-exercise (15-30mins post exercise):
This is the meal/snack that counts the most, as this is the first nutrition you will be providing your body to assist with refuelling and repair. Try to leave at least 15mins post exercise to allow for blood flow to return to your digestive tract to avoid digestive problems (5 minutes if your post-exercise snack is liquid-based).
What do we need?
Protein, carbohydrates and fluids.
During exercise, our muscles will develop micro-tears due to the load force demands of exercise. Protein the key nutrient in muscle repair and growth. Protein breaks down into amino acids (its building blocks), which travel to the damaged muscle cells to promote recovery.
How much do we need?
It’s not as much as you think. For endurance athletes, PER DAY, we need approx. 1.2-1.6g per kg of body weight. So, for example, if your weight is 60kg, your protein requirements are: 72g – 96g per day. On days where you double-train, or do brick sessions (triathlon training for example), use the higher limit, and for days you train only once, or rest days, use the lower limit.
Immediately post-exercise, it can be difficult to break down protein in our digestive tract, so it is important to incorporate a small amount of protein in your post-training snack and make sure your overall daily intake meets your requirements.
This is quite often forgotten about during immediate post-exercise recovery as we tend to focus mostly on protein. However, if we leave our muscle stores of carbohydrates depleted, we will not be able to utilise protein effectively for repair. Protein and carbohydrates work together for muscle recovery – protein repairs muscle and carbohydrates provide the energy for this to take place.
How much do we need?
Approx. 30-50g of carbohydrates in our post-exercise snack.
Fluids and electrolytes:
Replacing fluid loss and electrolytes post exercise is crucial for optimal recovery. During exercise, we lose fluid through our sweat glands and we exhale it in our breath. The way to calculate your fluid requirements per day (not including exercise) is to take your body weight and times that by 35-45mls.
Example: weight is 60kg, fluid requirements will be 2100ml – 2700ml per day.
If you are training, you need to replace 1 L of fluid per 1 hour of exercise.
Example: weight is 60kg, and you train for 2 hours, your overall fluid requirement is 4100ml – 4700ml.
Fluids are not limited to water alone – you can make this up out of juice, sports drinks, milk, decaffeinated tea/coffee, custard, yoghurt, jelly, soup, protein drinks etc.
It is important to remember that fluids containing caffeine have a diuretic effect, and could result in you losing more fluid than you take in.
Electrolytes are small ions in our blood that are used in the function of muscle contraction, nerve impulses, pH levels and fluid balance. These bodily functions are very important for exercise and sports performance.
If you have ever read the label of an electrolyte supplement, you may have seen the following electrolytes listed: sodium, chloride, bicarbonate, potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. These are the main electrolytes used during periods of exercise.
Our body is very good at replacing these electrolytes post exercise via the foods we eat, as our main source of electrolytes comes from our diet. However, after training sessions that last longer than 90mins, or on double training days, it is with investing in an electrolyte supplement that contains the ingredients mentioned above. This is also very important if you train in hot/humid environments and/or you are losing excessive amounts of fluids during training.
So, what should we aim to eat post-training? Some ideas incorporating protein, carbohydrates, fluid and electrolytes are:
- Protein shake made with coconut water and a banana
- Greek or natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and 30g nuts
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and honey, and 300ml sports drink
- Fruit smoothie made on milk
- Chocolate milk or up & go
- Baked beans or eggs on whole-grain toast, 300ml sports drink
- Cheese on wholegrain crackers, 300ml fresh juice
- Hummus on wholegrain tortilla chips, 300ml sports drink
- Tinned tuna/salmon and brown rice, 300ml fresh juice
- Porridge with fresh fruit and milk
Erin Wallace APD