Which athletes need to worry about their recovery nutrition?

Many athletes tend to be obsessed or sometimes even anxious about rapidly refueling as soon as the finish up a session – afraid they will miss the ‘window of opportunity’ of the 30-60mins post exercise where muscle glycogen repletion is at its peak.

However, refueling continues beyond this hour and, given that you are eating well and effectively spreading quality nutrients over the day, muscles will refuel effectively within 24hrs.

So if you have done a pretty easy session or have a full day to recover before your next training session, chances are that you can just use your next planned meal or snack as your recovery food.

However, if you have multiple training sessions planned on one day or have undertaken an intense/long workout/race, you will need to pay more attention to your recovery nutrition. The sooner you start to restore muscle glycogen and repair damaged muscle, the faster your recovery will be for the next session.

What should a recovery food include?

To switch on all those amazing cellular pathways for optimal recovery, your recovery meal/snack should include at least 15-25g of protein and also some carbohydrate. This way, your body is able to utilise the carbohydrate to refuel your muscle’s glycogen stores, while prioritising the protein for muscle recovery and rebuild.

One trend that I do see triathletes doing more regularly now is ensuring they get the protein (e.g. protein shakes) but then forgetting the carbohydrate component. This may be ok for many other sports that are not using high levels of muscle glycogen stores, but for the triathlete (that is regularly doing glycogen depleting exercise) optimal recovery requires not only protein but also carbohydrate.

Optimal recovery also means thinking about your hydration and electrolytes. Consider how to include fluid in with your recovery meal, while also including sodium to replete amounts lost during training but to also optimise rehydration.

What are the best options to eat after a tough session?

If you can conveniently access it, real foods are ideal recovery options to incorporate into your training day. However, sometimes more convenient food options are needed to ensure that recovery fits into a hectic work-life-family-training schedule!

Here are some of our favourites to recommend (and often ones that we crave mid-session!):

~ Eggs & Bacon (or Beans) on Sourdough with a milk-based coffee;

~ Fruit Smoothie – based on Greek Yoghurt and added protein powder if desired;

~ Greek Yoghurt (e.g. Chobani) with chopped fruit/berries & muesli clusters;

~ Meat & Salad Roll or Wrap + a Yoghurt;

~ Tin of Tuna with an Instant Brown Rice Cup + Milk-Based Coffee;

~ Oats cooked with milk then topped with nuts & seeds for an added boost (Also adding extra milk powder or protein powder during cooking can ensure optimal protein and a more satisfying option).

AND…Some other Convenient Options:

~ Carbohydrate & Protein Powder such as Sustagen Sport OR Endura Optimiser – made on milk for an extra boost;

~ Whey or WPI Protein made on Milk (If making on water, add in a carbohydrate-based snack with it);

~ 250-350mL Energize Up & Go OR Sustagen Sport Tetra

~ Protein Bar (containing 15-30g protein) WITH a banana.