If you are an athlete who trains to exhaustion, you are either fueling up for a workout or refueling and recovering from the workout. While much attention has been placed on recovery, I find that many of my clients are confused about how to best refuel after a tiring workout. Here are a few tips based on research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2013 Annual Meeting (www.acsm.org).
• It’s never too late to improve your sports diet.
Even experienced veteran cyclists often do a poor job of refueling. Only 38% of 212 competitive cyclists chose a carbohydrate-protein mix. Because residual fatigue from both training and competition strongly influences the ability to perform optimally, you would be wise to pay attention to a proper recovery diet!
• Be sure to include enough carbs in your daily diet.
Among 215 Navy SEALs, 86% ate less than the recommended carbohydrate intake (>2.5 g grams carb/lb; >5 g carb/kg). Like many serious athletes, the SEALs chose a high protein diet that would help build muscles—and skimped on the carbs needed to optimally fuel muscles.
• Rehydrate soon after you exercise; don’t delay until evening.
Although adequate hydration contributes to optimal performance, it can disrupt sleep in athletes who rehydrate primarily at the end of the day. A study with 35 male rugby players indicates 75% of them did a good job of rehydrating at a 10-day training camp. However, those who hydrated well at night tended to wake up at least three or more times to urinate. For better sleep, drink more fluids right when you finish exercising, instead of near bedtime.
• Don’t hesitate to make your own recovery drink.
A study comparing a fruit smoothie (made with milk, banana,berries) with a commercial product showed similar recovery benefits for subjects who did muscle-damaging exercise. Both recovery drinks offered the same amount of calories, protein, and carb. Food works!
• Spend your money on real fruits, veggies and whole foods –not on supplements.
• For 17 days, well-trained cyclists took an antioxidant supplement containing freeze-dried fruit-vegetable juice powder. The supplement offered no boost in immune function beyond that created by exercise itself.Instead of antioxidant pills, you might want to put that money towards your health club membership?
Eat well, perform well, and have fun!
For more information: Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook