We hear a lot of athletes who complete their workout and before you know it, they’ve gotten caught up in their life. They chat with friends at the car before driving home, they pull a few weeds on the way into the house, they take the dog for a walk or they run a few errands. Three hours goes by and they are famished. Nope, that’s not the way to recover and get ready for your next workout. Not properly fueling after a longer or harder workout can lead to low energy overall in your day to day activities and impact the quality of your next few workouts.
At a deeper level, when you work out, you stress your system. This controlled, good stress leads to muscle breakdown and repair and gets you ready for your next bout of work. Over time, you become stronger. Fueling properly immediately after a workout starts this process along.
Sure you can go a little crazy looking for the perfect recovery fuel but you don’t have to. There are many simple real food options that work well, are very easy and portable.
First what sort of refueling should you be aiming for? You should be aiming for a mix of carbohydrates and protein with a bit of added fat plus liquids to replace that which you’ve sweated out. The standard recommendation is for a ratio of 4:1 carbs to fat. Ugh. Who wants to figure that? And really, the recommendations have relaxed a bit so there is a range.
Low fat chocolate milk is one of the easiest options. It is a popular recovery drink among world class endurance athletes and one we also recommend.
Why? The carbs are important to your body to start the process of repair and restoring glycogen levels. The protein provides building blocks for that repair. A flavored milk (with the added real sugar) will go down easy for most even if you are not particularly hungry after a workout. Fat provides added calories, may help decrease inflammation and provides valuable cell restoration.
Not everyone can tolerate dairy. Flavored soy milk is also a good alternative. Other non-dairy milks often do not provide either enough protein or carbohydrates to match cow or soy milk. If you can tolerate food, nothing is as easy or portable as a PBJ sandwich on whole wheat with jam.
Other options which can work?
- Banana with trail mix or peanut butter and water
- A fancy latte with sugar and milk with some nuts or a snack bar
- Cheese and crackers
- graham crackers and peanut butter
- eggs and toast/egg sandwich
- cold cereal and milk
- fruit smoothie with protein
Eat or drink your recovery fuel ideally within 30 minutes after finishing and then eat again in about 2 hours to speed recovery.
Most important, don’t get so caught up in the what or exact fuel and concentrate simply getting something in.