I was cruising when I crossed the half way point during the Teton pAss Kicker last weekend. Then it hit me, the chills. The under-the-skin, full-body-chills. I was about to bonk. Everything I had done pre-race had been “right”. I ate a solid breakfast, drank water, sucked down food at the first hour mark of the race. Where had I gone wrong?
The day before I had raced the pAss Kicker 25 mile mountain bike race, and my post-workout meal was far from sufficient. I knew that the ½ banana, two slices of oranges and a double Americano were a poor choice from the get-go, but now I was paying the price.
Most clients ask me about what they should eat before they work out, but really, the focus should be on the post-workout meal. The number one rule: include a complete protein (all 9-amino acids) and carbohydrates. Rule number two: plan something that works for you.
A class or private session at Wright Training usually includes weight lifting and work capacity, which is a recipe for muscle glycogen depletion and micro-muscle tears that need protein to recover quickly. Post-workout nutrition is important because:
- Carbohydrates replenish our glycogon-depleted muscles. Our bodies are in a unique state post-workout, allowing us to more effectively burn carbohydrates and replenish the energy stores in our muscles.
- Protein helps rebuild the muscle tissue that was broken down during the training session. You have to give you muscles the building blocks they need to get stronger, and a full amino acid chain is the ticket.
- Contributing to our body’s recovery reduces soreness and fatigue (or in my case, bonking the next day).
There are many ways we can shuttle carbs and proteins to our fatigued muscles, what matters next is what works for you. Do you prefer “real food” like starchy vegetables and lean meat or is a protein shake the easiest way for you to stick with your PWO goals? I like to approach my PWO from a good, better, best approach. Many times we feel like we could have done better, but there is no point focusing on what is “best” if it isn’t easy enough to follow through with.
- There are three different types of carbohydrates: glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Glucagon can be built from all three, but the body reacts to each in a different way.
- Glucose is the easiest carbohydrate for your body to rebuild its glucagon stores. It can be found in starchy veggies (think sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets), and grains.
- Fructose is found in fruit, and while fruit such as bananas can provide the body with essential minerals and vitamins post-workout, the fructose has to go through the liver before your muscles can use it to replenish glucagon stores.
- Finally, sucrose is a combination of both glucose and fructose, and is found in table sugar. Any kind of processed carbohydrate, like cookies, cereals, bread, bars, will contain some amount of sucrose. While your body can use sucrose post-workout, it lacks the nutrient density that fruit, starchy veggies, or grains provide.
Here are some recovery meal ideas, ranging from good to better to best.
- Banana and almond butter/ peanut butter – the banana will provide you with carbohydrates, potassium, and magnesium and the almond butter will give you some protein.
- Milk + Whey based protein powder – Milk is often seen as the “perfect” recovery fuel; it packs both carbohydrate and protein into one, portable source. However, it’s only convenient if you can tolerate it, which many adults cannot. However, if you are looking for something just as easy, try adding a scoop of whey-based protein powder to coconut water.
- Mashed sweet potatoes with applesauce and lean protein or Whey protein powder – If you have the time and energy to prepare real-food for you PWO this will give you the best bang for your buck.