Athletes tend to have laser-like focus when it comes to their workouts and training. As an athlete, you are always looking for ways to tweak your training so that you can improve overall fitness, body composition, endurance, strength, power and speed.
What if it was possible to help assist in improving all of these factors without having to train more or train harder? Well, it is very possible to do so. One of the main keys is to put some focus and attention towards fueling the body properly prior to each workout. Most of you lead very busy lives and as a result, once a workout is completed, you’re off to your next task for the day. And, many times, this means that the proper recovery fuel did not find its way into the mix. Nutrition is a very dynamic process; it’s not static. Therefore, the fuel you are putting into your body post workout is not just helping to assist in recovery from that specific workout. Rather, this recovery fuel is also helping to assist in fueling our bodies properly for tomorrow’s workout. Here are a few refueling tips that will help to improve recovery which in turn will help to improve performance.
Load and Reload Glycogen
Glycogen is the storage form of glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles. Reloading and replenishing glycogen stores following a workout is one of the main keys to recovery success. The main macronutrient that will help with reloading glycogen is carbohydrate (read also: Why Athletes Need Carbohydrates). When carbohydrates are consumed post workout, this stimulates insulin production, which helps in muscle glycogen production.
Double Down On Glycogen
In addition to ingesting carbohydrates following a workout, research also shows that a recovery fuel source containing carbohydrate and protein can nearly double the insulin response. In turn, this results in more glycogen storage. In addition, the protein will also provide the body with amino acids which can help assist in muscle recovery.
Amount and Timing
Now that you understand the importance of carbohydrates and protein following your workouts, how much of each is ideal? Research shows that a carbohydrate to protein ratio of either 4:1 or 5:1 is optimal for reloading. This means 4 or 5g of carbohydrate to every 1g of protein.
“All too often, athletes think that protein, and more of it, is the key to recovery. That is not the case.”
More protein following a workout is going to slow glycogen replenishment and rehydration; both of which would be huge negatives to the athletes’ recovery process. Liquid calories tend to be a great go-to recovery fuel source for athletes as they are easily digested and absorbed. For example, a recovery drink/fuel source containing approximately 10g of protein and approximately 40-50g of carbohydrate would be ideal for maximizing glycogen replenishment. In terms of when recovery fuel should be consumed following a workout, there have been various ‘magic window’ time frames mentioned. Ideally, post workout fuel consumed 15 to 30 minutes following a workout is ideal in order to properly reload glycogen.
Hydrate, Hydrate, and Hydrate
As important as reloading glycogen is following a workout, rehydration is just as important. Just as I discussed earlier in regards to proper post workout recovery fuel helping to assist in improving future workouts, the same holds true for proper rehydration. If you do not properly rehydrate following each workout, you will then go into our next workout slightly dehydrated. This can easily start to negatively compound on itself and you can quickly find yourself in an acute or even chronic state of dehydration.
One quick and easy way to determine how much water you need following a workout is to weigh yourself before and after your workout. For every 1-pound that you lose during your workout, consume 16-24 ounces of water. Yes, that may seem like quite a bit, but this is necessary in order to promote proper rehydration. In addition to water, your body may also require additional electrolytes following a workout (sodium-potassium-magnesium-calcium) depending on length, duration, intensity, weather conditions, etc. during your workout. These electrolytes can be very easy to consume following a workout. For example, emptying the contents of an electrolyte capsule into your recovery drink is an easy and convenient way to have all of your recovery fuel needs in one beverage.
If you are looking to stay in the game and maximize recovery and performance, put these recovery-fueling tips into action.