4th January 2015
After a workout, good nutrition habits help your body to adapt to the stress imposed by exercise, so you can become fitter, stronger and faster. Whether you’re exercising to improve performance or build muscle, here are 5 nutritional strategies you should build into your training programme.
Eat the correct amount of carbs
If you do twice daily sessions, getting 1 – 1.5g carbohydrate/ kg body weight in the immediate post-exercise period will restore glycogen levels faster and help you perform better in your next workout. The harder and longer you trained, the more carbohydrate you will need to eat. So you’ll need less after a light session, more after a 2 hour blitz. Adding protein to the mix in a ratio of approximately 3 to 1 will promote faster refuelling too. Try a bowl of porridge (65g oats + 500ml milk) or 2 bananas with 500ml milk after your next workout.
Bend the 20g protein rule
Eating 20g protein after a workout has almost become dogma as many studies have shown this to be the optimal amount to trigger muscle protein synthesis (MPS or muscle building). But tailor this to suit your body weight (most studies were done with 85kg males!) – 0.25g per kilogram of body weight is a more accurate figure. So a 60kg athlete would need only 15g; a 100kg athlete would need 25g. Get 20g protein from 3 eggs; 500ml milk; 250g strained Greek yogurt or 25g whey powder.
Swig cherry juice
Drinking 30ml Montmorency tart cherry concentrate (a natural source of phytochemicals and anthocyanins) twice a day may help lessen the muscle damage you get after a strenuous workout and accelerate your recovery. One study found that consuming cherry juice before and after a marathon improved muscle recovery and reduced inflammation. Another found that it improves muscle strength recovery after weight training. And a 2014 study demonstrated that cyclists who consumed cherry juice had less muscle damage and inflammation following high intensity cycling.
Casein (or milk) before sleep
Because it digests more slowly and releases its amino acids at a prolonged rate, casein may be particularly beneficial before bedtime. According to one study, supplying the body with a slower release of amino acids at night appears to improve muscle recovery and promote growth. Protein synthesis was 22% higher in resistance-trained males who consumed 40 g of protein in the form of a casein drink before sleep compared with a placebo On the other hand, you may prefer to drink milk, which contains casein naturally. This is probably just as effective in promoting muscle synthesis after resistance training as supplements.
Dehydration can delay the recovery process so it’s important to replace fluids lost through sweating as soon as possible after exercise. Water is fine if you’ve exercised for less than an hour and lost little fluid through sweating. But, if you’ve been sweating heavily, your recovery drink should contain a mixture of protein and carbohydrate as well as sodium. According to a 2014 study, milk rehydrates you more effectively than isotonic sports drinks.
For more, see Food For Fitness (4th edition)