In the sports nutrition world, there is always talk about recovery… but what should you really be doing during recovery? Manual/physical modes of recovery like stretching, massage, rolling out, cool-down exercises, and saunas may be common, but what about the nutritional recovery required to maximize the effect of your training? Dietitians and many other sports professionals focus on the three R’s of Recovery - Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate!
1. Recovery should happen after EVERY workout.
Yes, I said it. Even if your workout was under an hour, you need to add a nutritional recovery component to your post-training routine. Consider your workout to be the center of a target, the closer (in time) you get recovery-focused-nutrition to that center of the target, the more effective your body is at using it to refuel and repair the damage done through exercise. Best practice is to add recovery-focused-nutrition within 30-60 minutes post-exercise.
2. Recovery may look different every day!
One of the goals of recovery is to replenish your lost glycogen stores. A good place to start is to get 1-1.2g/kg of your body weight in carbohydrates after a workout. This is especially important if you are doing multiple workouts daily and are trying to refuel and recover more quickly for the next activity.
3. You don’t have to eat the same thing after every workout.
You may have to consider different types of recovery depending on the time of day, your level of hunger, the intensity of your workout, how much time you have to prepare for recovery, and the temperature outside. My go-to is usually a liquid option which is great for athletes who may not have a big appetite after exercise or are on the go and want something quick and easy. This option also allows you to combine the nutrition and hydration components. Try Skratch Labs Recovery Mix which is comparable to one of the easiest/best recovery drinks recommended by sports dietitians: chocolate milk! If you’re not quite hungry but need something more substantial, a bar, pretzel + hummus, or half of a sandwich may be a good option. If it’s time for a meal and you’re HANGRY?! Go ahead and get that meal in. Whatever works for you, works for us! Just make sure there is a balance of carbs and protein so you can maximize the effectiveness of your nutrition.
4. What about protein?
Protein is important to help promote growth and repair (the rebuild part of the 3 R’s), but most of us focus too highly on protein intake and don’t realize we may be over-consuming. Typically, athletes should consume a range of 1-2.2 g/kg of body weight per DAY. Stick to the higher end of the range when you are recovering from more intense exercise or injury. Our activity isn’t static so our eating habits shouldn’t be either. Distributing protein throughout the day is also much more important than trying to get all of it post-workout or at dinner time! Note: if you are a plant-based athlete, you may need to increase or consume on the higher end of the range to get adequate amounts of leucine.
5. Don’t forget to rehydrate.
Dehydration is common during exercise so we want to minimize that loss as much as we possibly can. For every pound of body weight lost during exercise, we should be trying to get 16-24 ounces of water to help rehydrate as well as adding in electrolytes for excessive loss in hydration (especially after those hot or humid workouts). Sometimes even adding salt to your recovery meal or eating hydrating foods (soups, fruits, vegetables) can help you get back to equilibrium. After all, Skratch Labs has been perfecting hydration/hydration knowledge for 10 years now, we like to think we know hydration well!