By: Vishal Patel, Chief Nutritionist
Nutrition and hydration can play a major role in how our bodies can recover after a tough workout. I’ve spent the most time researching recovery nutrition, over any other facets of sports nutrition because I truly believe it’s the most important.
Why? Because how we recover dictates the effort of the subsequent workout. If that isn’t enough to show how important recovery is, think of this way…elite and professional athletes dope to help improve their recovery. The illegal substances they’re consuming (EPO, HGH, etc.) all work to help repair and re-build the body, allowing them to work harder the next day compared to athletes who are competing clean. These athletes still work very hard during training, but by using performance enhancing drugs, they speed up the time it takes for their body to repair itself.
For this blog, we’ll focus on three ‘general’ aspects on recovery; timing, immune health, and nutrition.
When you’re exercising, your muscles is constantly being exposed to stress causing them to break-down. You’re not getting stronger during exercise, you're building (and repairing) muscles in the recovery process with the addition of protein and other nutrients (to a smaller extent). The timing of that protein intake is key. Most people want to guzzle down a hydration drink, or protein drink immediately after a workout. However, your better suited if you wait 5-7 minutes after a workout, let your body naturally start repairing itself. This can occur with a strong immune system (more on that later). After that initial window, take in your protein and follow it up with a meal.
The first 30 or so minutes after exercise isn’t the only crucial time frame for recovery. After the meal, you should slowly begin to re-hydrate (with Nuun Sport or Recover), and prior to sleep taking in slow-releasing protein you find in fat-free greek yogurt can help finalize the protein re-synthesis process. In addition, addressing inflammation can help reduce muscle soreness. If you consume tart-cherry juice (or Nuun Rest!) about 30 minutes before bed, you can give your body a dose of natural melatonin to relax and fall asleep!
Time-line for "ideal recovery"
start the clock when the workout is finished…
Most athletes do not associate immune health with proper recovery, but more and more research is pointing into the direction that your immune system can play a vital role in helping combat the stress of exercise. During exercise, your body is under hypoxic stress that heats up your internal organs, with that comes your natural immune response to combat that elevated stress hormones. A strong immune system will help your body deal with natural tendencies to enable muscle repair, and refueling. The easiest way to strengthen your immune system is to stay on top of hydration, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and allow your body to rest when it needs it.
There are many things we can eat and drink to help our body recovery better. Food (and water) is what our bodies need to perform and recover. Once you dial it in and find what works for you, the benefits will begin pouring in. Eating leafy greens and colorful vegetables will help ensure you are getting a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals (through food), which can help combat inflammation that occurs during exercise. Lean-meats, high quality dairy, and legumes can help re-build and repair muscles by providing great sources of protein. And finally, eating food high in protein or fruits (like tart cherries!) that contain nutrients that can act like an anti-inflammatory mechanism can help your muscles and tendons relax, and can promote sleep. Most people don’t realize that a good night sleep (at least one hour of deep sleep) can help tissues in your muscles rebuild making them stronger than ever. In my opinion, sleep is the most underrated forms of recovery.