Eat the right foods - at the right time
Bridgette Leeson, RHN
Help your body recover faster with the right foods at the right time. It can be as simple as a smoothie, juice, or nuts.
Choosing the right nutrient dense foods post workout can help all athletes (whatever their sport) improve their performance by helping accelerate recovery. Those who are able to recover faster can train again sooner. And those who are able to train more frequently have more opportunity to improve their performance.
Mechanics of muscle glycogen replenishment
Efficient recovery following high levels of exercise intensity requires refuelling post workout. During your workout your main source of energy comes from carbohydrates—either as stored glycogen or consumed glucose.
Without adequate intake of necessary carbohydrates between bouts of exercise, your body will draw on stored fuel to keep you going, converting glycogen (stored sugar in the muscles and liver) to glucose. It’s important to replenish glycogen stores post workout so you’re ready for your next round of activity.
Speed up muscle glycogen replenishment
Research has shown that consuming a three-to-one or four-to-one ratio of carbohydrates-to-protein immediately after exercise is the most effective combination of macronutrients to support glycogen replenishment. This combination is most effective when consumed within 30 minutes after your workout.
You’ll want to choose simple, easy to digest carbohydrates for most efficient absorption. Fruit such as grapefruit, bananas, dates, or melons are ideal. Add some easy to digest protein to help with the uptake of glucose into your muscle cells—and start the process of muscle tissue repair and protein synthesis.
A higher protein meal can be consumed later, about 45 to 90 minutes post workout.
Foods for optimum recovery
Consuming the right foods at the right time is key to promoting greater recovery following exercise. It doesn’t need to be complicated, though. Here are a few ideas you can try.
Planning to stop by the juice bar after your workout? Enjoy a fresh-pressed juice with a handful of nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, or selenium-rich Brazil nuts) for a perfect post-workout option.
Not into juice? Have a smoothie. Try combining 1 Tbsp (15 mL) almond butter with 1 cup (250 mL) frozen fruit, such as pineapple and strawberries; 1 cup (250 mL) almond milk; and ice. Add 1 cup (250 mL) spinach or kale for an added nutrient boost.
Pineapple makes a good addition because it’s a source of enzymes, specifically bromelain, which aids in the breakdown of protein, further supporting efficient glycogen replenishment.
Want something even easier? Try a small banana with a handful of nuts.