So you have had a great training session, and now you are heading home or onto work, what you do next is really important to enhancing your ongoing performance, energy levels and recovery.
The objective of sports & post training nutrition is to primarily help the body recover quicker. By making better food choices and consuming the right nutrients after your trianing sessions you will not only enhance exercise performance but provide essential nutrients that will reduce muscle recovery time and repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
So what are the objectives of your post workout meal and nutrition? This meal and refeed needs to replenish your glycogen stores, reduce any inflammation created by your training, repair your muscles, and reduce any potential muscular aches and pains.
To explain it a bit further….
As you probably know there are three main macronutrients which fuel the body: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Carbohydrates are the biggest & easiest fuel source to access for your muscles which are used first and foremost during exercise. Muscles will only store enough glycogen to last just 60-90 minutes of training, which is why replacing these glycogen stores is considered important in recovery nutrition.
Not consuming enough carbohydrate can cause muscle fatigue and reduce exercise performance if you are used to fuelling from carbohydrates. However, this doesn’t mean that consuming any carbohydrate rich food will support this physiological process. Carbohydrates are broken down into simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are recommended over simple forms for energy.
Some examples of foods rich in complex carbohydrates are brown rice, oats, quinoa, legumes, beans, starcy vegetables, pumpkin, kumara & bananas.
The release of natural inflammatory markers is a healthy response from our immune system to protect the body from microbes, chemicals, and physical trauma. During exercise, the body releases cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and growth hormones whic
h increases your heart rate, your blood pressure may rise, can lower inflammation and stabilise blood glucose levels. All good reasons to keep on exercising!
However, what you eat in your day to day diet is also important in reducing this natural release of inflammation to prevent the development of other conditions that occur from an inflammatory environment. A nutrient that is specific in reducing inflammation is Omega 3 EPA/DHA.
Research studies have shown that this fatty acid has a natural anti-inflammatory effect at a cellular level by inhibiting the release of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) which produces the hormone (prostaglandin) that sparks inflammation.
Omega-3 rich foods also help regulate heartbeat, reduce blood pressure, decrease blood clot formation, and reduce overall inflammation, all of which decrease the risk for heart attacks and strokes. They have also been found to
reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Might be time to add more of these into your foods, whether or not your are training.
Foods which are rich in omega 3 include salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds, tuna, walnuts and even beef.
Resistance training and long-distance running cause microscopic tearing of fibers and connective tissue of muscles. The tearing of muscle tissue, allows new tissue to be created (synthesized is the technical term) which is also known as muscle hypertrophy. This process is what is occuring when you get that post muscle soreness, which is often referred to as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness, which occurs a couple of days’ post workout. The right nutrition will assist in reducing the amount of time you will suffer from post muscle soreness by supporting the repair and growth process.
The main macronutrient utilised by the muscles is protein, which is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are categorized into two groups; essential and non-essential. There are 9 essential amino acids, which can only be received through diet with three of them in-particular playing a role in reducing muscle fatigue and promoting hypertrophy or muscle growth.
You will know them as branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine stops the muscle tissue from being used as the energy source rather it promotes muscle recovery and strength. Lots of people take BCAAs as a supplement but there are foods you can eat which are rich in these Amino Acids. Foods in particular which are high in BCAAs include Eggs, Red Meat, Chicken, Nuts, Dairy, Soy Protein and Whey Protein Powder.
Magnesium is an essential mineral, one which many people overlook in their sports nutrition. Magensium plays a fundamental role in optimising muscle contraction, skeletal strength and energy production, helping to sustain the high oxygen consumption necessary for athletic performance. It is involved in many pathological systems in the human body. One of the main functions of magnesium is it promotes smooth muscle relaxation. Unlike calcium, which promotes muscle contraction, magnesium prevents excess calcium depositing in the muscles which prevents muscle aches and pain. The buildup of lactic acid, which often contributes to muscle soreness can be due to magnesium deficiency. Therefore a diet rich in magnesium will assist in the flushing of lactic acid.
Foods which are rich in magnesium include seafood, avocado, yoghurt, leafy greens and cacao.
So next time you pack your training bag for the gym, make sure you have your post training meal sorted too!