Nutritional Workout Recovery Strategies

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

After a long, strenuous workout, the first thing you want to do is go home and relax. However, by doing so you are missing that valuable window of opportunity for nutrient uptake. Your workout leaves your body entirely depleted of nutrients, especially protein and glycogen. With the proper workout recovery strategies, you will restore your body to optimum condition for each consecutive training session and avoid losing valuable muscle tissue.

It’s a popular notion that the harder you work your muscles, the bigger they grow. The truth is training doesn’t build your muscles; it actually tears them down. The stress you put on your muscle tissue during training breaks down muscle fibers. Your body reacts during recovery by regenerating lost tissue and building tissue on top of what already existed.

Recovery includes many factors including stretching, sleep, and muscle stimulation. However, I would like to focus primarily on nutrition because that is the aspect most people disregard after training, yet it has the most influence over the progress of your training.

Let’s break nutrition down into three categories:

Macronutrients- proteins, carbohydrates, fats
Micronutrients- vitamins, minerals
Rehydration- water intake

You workouts cause catabolism, or breakdown of protein in your muscles. Carbohydrates boost your production of insulin, an anabolic hormone that supports protein synthesis and prevents catabolism. However, carbohydrates are far more effective when taken with a protein source. When these two nutrients are combined in a 3:1 ratio (3 carbs to every 1 protein), your insulin production doubles.

Fad diets have us fearing foods essential to the growth and development of muscles. The low carb/high protein trend, or high carb/low protein trend depletes your body of vital macronutrients, leaving your muscle starved and weak. If you’ve ever tried one of these diets, you may have noticed the more you trained, the less muscle you carried.

Many athletes think that taking vitamins before a workout will provide them with the extra energy boost they need to increase perform and shorten recovery time. This reason is invalid because of the way your body processes nutrients. Aside from vitamin B-6 and some electrolytes, taking micronutrients pre-work won’t have much effect.

The best time to take in vitamins, minerals and other ancillaries is right after you train. Your body depletes vitamins and minerals during your training session. You also lose a considerable amount through sweat. Taking a quality multivitamin after your workout, along with antioxidants (most importantly vitamin C an E) will restore lost nutrients and fight against free radicals produced during exercise.

Okay, water isn’t a nutrient. However, it is essential during performance and recovery. Most athletes suffer from dehydration or over hydration during workouts. The best way to determine water loss during a training session is by body weight.

Weigh yourself before and after your workout. You want a fluctuation of no more than 2% plus or minus. If you lose more than 2%, you are most likely dehydrated and need to take in 1 liter for every 1 kilogram of weight loss.



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