Nutrition for recovery has been the biggest question I have received. So for my first official blog we will cover that subject.
First let’s look at what is actually happening to your body before we dive into how you need to replace specific nutrients. Generally people breakdown exercise into two different groups, cardiovascular and weight-bearing. Each group of exercise do something slightly different than the other, but if done correctly both can yield very similar results for the average person. Weight training is probably the most missed understood by women, which we will discuss that in a different blog and why it’s almost more important for women to weight train than men. If done correctly weight training can also invoke a cardiovascular workout. The key is to simply not stop moving. Most of you have seen the guys lifting really heavy weights and then taking what seems to be a 30 minute break in between each exercise. If they would simply not take the 30 minute break they would keep their heart rate elevated for longer periods of time, which is exactly what you do during cardiovascular exercises like running. The plus side of this type of exercise is that it generally builds muscle faster and bigger. But the downside is because most people take such a long breaks is that it does not exercise your heart for sustained periods of time. This is not to say that doing those exercises does not have some residual cardiovascular benefits, because it definitely does. So exercises like running and swimming simply work different types of muscle and are generally done for longer periods of time keeping your heart rate up. You will still get stronger but it will be different types of muscle fiber and the general result is not a very large muscle growth.
The good thing about recovery is, that you can utilize pretty much the same type of recovery for both types of exercises. And recovery is far more important than the food you consume before you exercise. Which for the most part you should not be consuming very much food before your workout, your body has plenty of energy! And if you do want to consume food it should not be anything more than an hour or two before your exercise routine. So the keys to recovering properly are; protein, carbohydrates, and low-fat. And preferably in a liquid state so your body can uptake the nutrients more quickly. The general rule of thumb is that you should consume nutrients at least within one hour after exercising, which is when your muscles are looking for those key nutrients to repair what you have just put them through.
Let’s go through each nutrient and it’s quantity. Protein, you should consume a good quality protein from either natural sources or through a protein powder (I use Hammer because of sponsorship and I like their products, Vega Sport is another one). And please don’t go buy the garbage protein they sell at the grocery store, Costco/Sams. I have only seen a few good quality proteins at a grocery store, but most of them are filled with fillers and other stuff that is not good for you! If you cannot read the ingredients list or look up what a content is and understand it, don’t put it in your body!!! You should consume approximately 10–20 g of protein during this 1st hour after exercise.
Carbohydrates; this is the time when you can actually splurge on all of those wonderful carbohydrates we all like to eat. Whether it’s maple syrup, which you still need to be careful of because it is sugar, or fruit. The general rule of thumb is a 4 to 1 ratio, so for every 1 gram of protein you need 4 grams of carbohydrates. Anything close to this ratio is fine, the real goal is to have that protein uptake into the muscle, which is what the carbohydrates help to do. And carbohydrates also help replace the muscle glycogen that you have depleted while doing the exercise.
Fats; The reason you want to avoid fats just after an exercise routine is because they can slow down the absorption process and this makes your recovery drink counterproductive to a degree. Save the fats, carbs and more protein for the meal you have later on. Nice good healthy fats from nuts (almonds are awesome), olive oil/coconut oil (most other oils have inflammation type properties so you should not use them), avocados and such will help you stay full for a longer period of time. So you definitely want to cut back on the carbohydrates after exercising.
So in summary, get some good quality protein and natural carbohydrates with no or low fat and enjoy that wonderful recovery smoothie or meal. Which by the way should be about 200-500 calories depending on your daily calorie needs and goals.