You’ve just finished up a monster workout and feel pretty good about yourself. With runs like that, you’re confident that a whole slew of PRs lay just around the corner.
That’s mostly right. Getting in solid workouts is just one part of the equation leading to faster times and all-around athletic improvement. The other, often neglected piece of the puzzle is adequate recovery. When it comes to recovery, post-exercise nutrition can either boost the effects of your workout, or wreak havoc on your ability to see performance improvement.
Nutrition for Recovery
Performance improvement is completely dependent upon recovery. Running stimulates muscular and cardiovascular adaptations, which require a recovery period in order for the body to rebuild itself as a slightly stronger version of itself.
Because recovery is such an integral part of athletic improvement, it should be taken just as seriously as the workout itself. In addition to physical rest, one important component of adequate recovery is proper nutrition.
Following a bout of strenuous exercise, the body needs proper nutrition in order to:
- Replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores
- Synthesize new muscle proteins as part of the repair and adaptation process
- Replace lost fluids and electrolytes
- Aide the immune system in handling the added stress to the body caused by the workout
When it comes to post-exercise nutrition, the biggest factor is carbohydrate consumption. Glycogen, or the body’s stored form of glucose, is the main fuel source during moderate to high intensity exercise. Without proper carbohydrate fuel to replenish glycogen stores, future workouts will be compromised. Ideally, carbohydrate consumption should occur within 30-60 minutes following a workout, because it is during this window that you can maximize your muscle glycogen stores.
Protein is also important for recovery. The amino acids in proteins are used by your body to rebuild and repair muscle tissue. Not just for body builders, protein intake also helps endurance athletes maximize glycogen storage potential and supports the immune system as it copes with the stress imparted from that grueling workout.
One of the simplest ways to address all of your post-exercise nutritional needs is with a recovery drink. Recovery drink mixes can be used on their own, or also as a creative supplement to “real food” options, as in the recipe below.
Recipe: Turmeric Recovery Shake
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 banana
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- A splash of milk
- 1 serving vanilla flavored recovery drink (for example, Gu Recovery Drink Mix or Hammer Recoverite)
Simply place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. For a cold version, try using a frozen banana and adding a few ice cubes into the blender.
When it comes to recovery, we’ll take all the help we can get. After all, if there’s a simple way to get more bang for your buck when it comes to hard workouts, then why not? The jury is still out as to just how much turmeric you’d actually need to eat in order to notice the benefits, but before you go devour that spice jar, remember that recovery is in many ways about long-term consistency. Some of the claimed benefits of regularly consuming turmeric include:
- Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help your body recover from a workout faster and may help to prevent injury
- Turmeric has been shown to help sooth gastrointestinal distress
- Turmeric has been shown to help optimize liver function, which aids in detoxifying the body
Tracie is a former teacher and a lifelong learner who loves exploring. Most at home in the mountains, she enjoys tearing up and down the trails on her mountain bike, and occasionally leaves the wheels at home for a run through the trees. Having recently earned her personal trainer certification, Tracie thrives on helping others reach their athletic goals.