Recovery - The Essentials
Training is not over until you have eaten your recovery meal. Training is merely creating the potential for fitness improvements, but the actual improvements happen during the recovery period. By feeding yourself the right food during this recovery period you will maximise your fitness gains. By feeding yourself the wrong food, or not enough of the right food, you will not get as much improvement as you potentially could have.
Recovery nutrition helps you get bang for your buck out of your training session.
During endurance exercise you burn a lot of carbohydrates, and you effectively drain your tank of petrol. It is important to replace this fuel so that you can have energy for your regular daily activities, keep your immune system firing, and be prepared for your next session. Doing this consistently will also drive adaptation, and your muscles will learn to store more carbohydrates, effectively increasing the size of your fuel tank.
Wholegrain/starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, couscous, and cereals.
As soon as practically possible after exercise. After a your long training sessions you should snack soon after, and follow this up with a meal as soon as possible.
This varies for each individual, and depends on the duration and intensity of the training session. A basic guide would be a 'fist' sized portion of carbohydrates in your post exercise snack, and aim for two 'fist' sized portions of carbs in your next main meal.
Protein is important after exercise to help repair the muscles that are damaged during exercise.
Meat, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, dairy products, lentils, tofu.
At the same time as your carbs (described above)
Again, this depends on various factors, including your weight and goals, but a basic rule is to provide 20g of protein (about 100g of meat) as soon as possible after exercise. Choose real food rather than protein powder when possible.
Including plenty of micronutrients in your diet is important for a whole host of different reasons. Eat a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables everyday, including after training.
Don't forget about water. Your thirst mechanism is not actually as finely tuned as you would expect, especially in relation to exercise, so don't solely rely on this to guide your intake. Keep a bottle of water handy, and sip on it regularly. To help you drink enough, make sure it is fluid that you enjoy (so you drink it), it is readily available, and it is cool, especially on a hot day.
This article has been a blow by blow account of the basics of recovery nutrition. For more personalised advice, purchase a personalised, written online nutrition package from here.