For fitness enthusiasts and athletes, the recovery nutrition meal after training is the most important meal of the day. What you eat after training is important to boost your immune function, refuel your body so that it will respond to the training, and give you the necessary energy to train again soon. Always be sure to eat enough in your recovery meal so that you are maximizing your ability to bounce back from your workout. This is especially important if you have workouts close together in time.
If you are trying to lose weight, reduce calories at other times in the day but keep your recovery intake high. The goals of your recovery nutrition meal can be explained by the following five principles:
The 5 R’s for Recovery
Adequate rest is needed to get the most out of your workout. Consult with a qualified exercise/sport specialist to determine adequate rest time just for you.
REHYDRATE – FLUIDS!
Keep drinking fluids once you are finished your workout. Replace 3 cups fluid (750 ml) per pound of weight lost during your workout. Monitor the color and amount of urine – it should be pale yellow and you should be urinating regularly.
REPLACE – CARBS!
Replace carbohydrates (carbs) that the muscles have burned for energy otherwise you will go into your next workout feeling tired. The harder your workout is, the more carbs you have burned and will need to replace. It is important to eat a source of carbs (liquid or solid) within 15-20 minutes after activity when your muscles are most receptive to re-fueling. Try dried fruit bars, granola bars, juice, canned fruit, milk or chocolate milk.
REPAIR – PROTEIN!
Protein helps to repair and recover muscle and other tissues damaged during activity. Protein also helps to keep your immune system strong so you don’t get sick.
REJUVENATE – ANTIOXIDANTS
The physical stress of exercise produces free radicals that can damage your body’s cells (such as red blood cells which transport oxygen and muscle tissue). Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and protect cells from damage leading to better recovery. Your recovery meal should be abundant in plant-based foods since this is where you find antioxidants. Choose foods rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Beta-carotene and Vitamin E such as colorful fruits and veggies.
Sample recovery meals for intense workouts:
- Whole grain toast with a veggie and cheese omelet.
- Pancakes with maple syrup, fresh fruit salad, cottage cheese
- Protein shake with fruit, unsweetened juice, milk, yogurt and protein powder with a granola bar
- Grilled chicken/fish/meat with rice and mixed veggies.
- Vegetarian pizza and garden salad with vinaigrette.
- Sandwich or wrap with meat, cheese and veggies with fresh fruit or unsweetened juice.