by Charles Weller June 04, 2013
If you’re an athlete who leans toward strenuous workouts, whether you pound the pavement, compete in a sport, or are just a “weekend warrior,” you can maximize post-workout recovery to see dramatic improvements in athletic performance and overall experience. Here are five easy tips to maximize your recovery by focusing on post-workout recovery nutrition:
This is also known as the post-workout window where in the 15-60 minutes immediately following a workout, your muscles are primed to receive fuel to start the repair process. Have your recovery meal immediately after training, preferable within the first half hour after the workout is complete.
Your muscles are primed to uptake nutrients for repair and recovery immediately after you exercise. Don’t waste this time waiting for your body to breakdown the foods in your stomach. Ideally, you could maximize post-workout recovery by intaking your immediate post-workout fix in liquid form. Stay away from animal protein post-workout as your body needs to work harder to break it all down into separate amino acids before utilizing them. Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale) are rich in ready to use, easily absorbed amino acids. When you fuel yourself on foods that are easy to digest, your body can direct more energy into healing the wear-and-tear on your muscles caused by a workout (whether its weight lifting, running, or yoga). Not only will you heal quicker on a diet of plant food proteins, you will also have more energy for the next day’s workout.
You should consume carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, depending on your fitness goals. The carbohydrates should include high glycemic or simple carbohydrates for glycogen replenishment in additional to a high-quality easy-to digest protein source to repair and build muscle. A blend of plant-based proteins is ideal for your post-workout shake and will help to maximize post-workout recovery.
Intense exercise creates an acidic environment in your body. If you don’t neutralize the acid with what you eat, your body will use the calcium from your bones and nitrogen from your muscle tissue to neutralize it. Animal protein and diary is acidic, so stay away from whey protein and other animal foods. Arachidonic acid is a pro-inflammatory fatty acid found in varying concentrations in all meats. Following a workout where the muscle has been trained, there are often micro tears in the muscle whether it is from weightlifting or simply stretching. It is anti-inflammatory foods that should be consumed for optimal healing. This is why fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein sources are ideal staples for optimal post-workout nutrition.
Drink at least two cups of water per pound of body weight lost during exercise. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes which can result in symptoms like muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea and mental confusion. Long-term risks include kidney failure, seizures, and disturbances in heart rhythm. A good source of electrolytes post-workout is fruit, vegetables or even some coconut water. If you’re using a post-workout drink, try making your smoothie with coconut water to help rehydrate and replace these lost electrolytes.
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