As athletes, we tend to focus on what to eat before a workout that will fuel us (without causing stomach discomfort!), and what to eat during exercise to keep energy levels high. But are you paying attention to what you eat after exercise? Properly refueling will accelerate your rate of recovery, allowing you to schedule workouts closer together and raise your performance to the next level. Choosing nutrient dense foods can accelerate the six elements of recovery: muscle glycogen replenishment, hormonal support, soft-tissue repair, immune system support, inflammation reduction and rehydration.
1. Muscle glycogen replenishment and muscle tissue repair
You may not know the technical name for it, but everyone can tell when you hit a wall. In your body, this means that you have used all the glucose in your blood, muscle tissue and liver as energy. Fuel during a workout will help keep you from bonking, but after the workout you need to put that energy back into muscle glycogen storage. The most effective way for your body to replenish muscle glycogen is by consuming a 3 to 4:1 ratio of easily digestible carbohydrates to protein, immediately after your workout.1
Once your muscle glycogen is replenished, then you can start to repair muscle tissue by creating new muscle protein. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) help transition your body from a catabolic (breaking down of muscle during exercise) to an anabolic (repair and rebuild) state.2
2. Hormonal support
You may see exercise as a form of stress-release, but biologically speaking it is also a cause of stress. Endurance exercise especially elevates cortisol—the stress hormone— levels. Consuming minimally processed foods while avoiding uncomplementary stress will help to reduce cortisol levels. There is promising evidence that getting enough amino acids arginine and lysine can help to reduce cortisol levels, while promoting healthy hormone levels.3 You can find arginine in sesame and sunflower seeds, most seaweeds, chlorella, and dark leafy greens.
3. Soft tissue repair
What if you’re feeling soreness in your joints after a long run? While carbohydrates and protein can fuel your muscle tissue, these macronutrients don’t repair your soft tissue, which connects and supports all of your organs, joints, and muscles. Glucosamine is a natural supplement that helps to maintain joint health.4
4. Immune system support
Getting a cold or flu will derail your training and prevent recovery in a big way. The first step in boosting your immune function is to make sure that what you eat is nutrient dense and rich in vitamins and minerals. If you want to give your immune system functional fighting power, consider the amino acid glutamine—a fuel for immune cells. Exercise reduces glutamine in your blood, so supplementing with it can bring these levels back to normal aiding in muscle cell repair, while helping to support immune system health.5
5. Inflammation reduction
You’re trying hard to fight inflammation, but did you know that inflammation is one way your body heals from the micro-muscle tears and increased cortisol levels that exercise has caused? Inflammation is necessary, but it does increase your recovery time because of muscle soreness and stiffness. By incorporating more antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains and Omega-3s, you can start to fight against inflammation.
Ever wonder how much sweat you lose during exercise? The average athlete can lose anywhere from 1 to 2.5 liters of sweat per hour! The loss of 1 liter of sweat can equate to the loss of 3000 mg of sodium.6 Replenishing the electrolytes that you eliminate during exercise is the last crucial step in recovery. Calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium are the chief electrolyte minerals, which regulate the flow of nutrients and waste in and out of cells, making them essential for muscle contractions, heartbeats and general nerve function.
You just put in a hard workout, so now’s the time to rebuild your body with foods that address all six elements of recovery. Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator was specifically formulated for this reason. To learn more about recovery from endurance and strength exercise, sign up for thriveforward.com today.
- Kerksick et al. (2008) International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient Timing. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5:17. Accessed 7/15/13 from http://www.jissn.com/content/5/1/17
- Suryawan A et al. (1998).A molecular model of human branched-chain amino acid metabolism American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68:72–81
- Smriga, Miro et al. (2007). Oral treatment with l-lysine and l-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans. Biomedical Research 28 (2) 85-90. Accessed 7/15/13 from https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/biomedres/28/2/28_2_85/_pdf
- Health Canada.(2009). Natural Health Products Monograph: Glucosamine. Accessed 7/15/13 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=102&lang=eng
- Health Canada.(2008). Natural Health Products Monograph: Glutamine. Accessed 7/15/13 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=126&lang=eng