Recovery is one of the biggest determinants of performance. If you recover well, you can train more and train harder. Your gains are greater. Your capacity to keep on keeping on is increased. If you don’t recover very well, and you’re left tired and sore and unmotivated for days on end after a tough session, the opposite to the above applies.
Nutrition is paramount when it comes to optimal recovery, and therefore peak performance – in training AND racing! The food you eat can allow you to bounce back quicker and stronger than you were before that last training run. I italicised food there because I always place a large emphasis on the use of real, whole foods to achieve health and performance as opposed to powdered potions and exquisitely overpriced lab-made concoctions.
These are the three most beneficial things you can do to promote the best possible recovery:
Proteins are the building blocks of life. When we exercise or exert ourselves, we breakdown proteins in our muscles, our blood vessels and many other organs and systems. The sooner you replace these, the better. There is a window of about 45 minutes after exercising when your body is most receptive to – or “hungry for” – new building blocks. High quality animal protein such as that from organic eggs, chicken, beef or bacon (to name a few examples) provides the most bioavailable building blocks you can get! So drop an egg in your smoothie, fry up some bacon and eggs in butter or chomp back a couple of leftover drumsticks.
Pump up the micronutrients!
For too long the nutrition-conscious among us have been fixated on just the dietary macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) with little mention of the essential and ever-important micronutrients. The vitamins, minerals and trace elements in the food we eat are absolutely crucial to human function – both surviving and thriving! These miniscule nutrients are the carriers, messengers and little helpers that assist the body in repairing and recovering; the proteins and fats need these little guys! The laboratory made chemicals in shelf-dwelling sports supplements claiming to be “nutrients” simply don’t cut it. Once again, it is real food that will provide you with the perfect amounts of little helpers for prime recovery. No surprises that your body recognises micronutrients in their natural form and so they are absorbed better that way. Be sure to crank up the micronutrient count in your recovery meal by adding leafy greens or super fruits such as blueberries or blackcurrants. In previous articles I’ve provided tips about how to get even more of these micronutrients out of your food.
Vitamin C – the super star
If there’s one micronutrient that deserves a special mention when it comes to recovery, vitamin C takes the proverbial cake! Vitamin C promotes recovery via many physiological mechanisms. To name a few, vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen (a protein in most connective tissues including muscles, tendons and ligaments), cleaning up free radicals (molecules produced by bodily stresses, such as exercise, that cause damage to our cells), regulating adrenal function and ensuring that testosterone levels remain elevated post-exercise. Testosterone drives repair and growth, so it is desirable for anyone recovering from exercise; male or female! Supplement your post-training snack with foods that are high in vitamin C such as broccoli, capsicum, kale, strawberries or a squeeze of lemon juice. If you are inclined to use an actual powdered supplement, opt for something clean and natural such as camu camu powder which is exceptionally high in vitamin C! Beware of most supermarket vitamin products as they are often made from wheat excipients and are not real, natural vitamin C (despite what the advertising on the label says).
There are many ways to boost recovery, nutritional and otherwise. If you start to apply these simple ideas to your daily regime, the benefits will soon follow.
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