Written by Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Sports Nutrition Expert, Kate Orlando. You can read the previous segments of The Road to Boston here.
Often overlooked, recovery is a crucial step in training and performance. Here are some tips for recovery that are simple and easy to implement.
The intensity, duration and nature of training will determine how much recovery time you need before getting back out there. Stretching the muscles before and after using them is has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of injury and reduce recovery time. Dynamic stretching (movement based stretching) warms the body, preparing the muscles for movement. Static stretching (elongating and holding muscles) is a way to stretch out the muscles once they’re warm. Stretching can reduce muscle soreness, improve flexibility and joint range of motion. Movement is key. But that being said, relaxing and taking some time off is also important.
Recovery drinks and food are required to replace spent glycogen and build up your stores for your next workout. This process will take a different amount of time based on the person, the intensity and duration of the workout, and the quality of food consumed. There is a two-hour window immediately following exercise when consumed carbohydrates are converted more efficiently to glycogen and stored as fuel.
The meal you eat after a workout will greatly impact your recovery as well as your progress and performance. For example, the average runner could spend 800-1800kcal during a half marathon. If their post race meal consists of greasy, fried, empty calorie, trans fat laden foods, it will not do them very good. If their meal consists of simple and complex carbohydrates for glycogen, quality protein for muscle synthesis and healthy fats for hormone support, then their recovery will be more efficient and beneficial.
Loss of electrolytes through perspiration can also lead to muscle soreness and should be replenished following any sweaty workout. Try to consume foods high in potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. Fresh colourful vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes are the best sources for these minerals. There are also some great electrolyte drinks out there. And don’t forget about water…It’s not a no-brainer for everyone! Water is non-negotiable before, during and after!
In addition to taking time to recover, stretching, and eating the right things at the right time, there are other tools you can use. Wearing compression clothing post exercise is another great way to avoid swelling and soreness. Arnica is one of my go-to anti-inflammatories. Scheduling a massage for the day after can help relieve DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), because you might not feel how sore you are the day of your exercise, especially if you keep moving. Foam rolling and icing can also help relive sore muscles.
Taking the time to recover properly ensures you can get back to your exercise as quickly and strong as possible. Overuse injuries can occur from not taking enough time to recover, not fuelling properly and not listening to your body.
When I started running competitively, I had to assess what and when I was eating in order to maximize nutrients, optimize digestion, strengthen my immune system, and ensure I was getting adequate sleep. Balanced macronutrients and an abundance of micronutrients have really provided me with the tools to train hard and frequently, as well as prevent injury and illness. I found some great cookbooks with quick and easy nutritious meals, one of my favourites being The Racing Weight Cookbook by Matt Fitzgerald and George Fear.
Full disclosure: I am far from a chef (that’s why I live with one). I love and understand food but cooking is not my thing, and that can put a lot of stress on person trying to eat well. Finding resources that suit your style of cooking and eating will truly fuel your success. Here is one of my favourite easy-go-to pre/post recipes that you can read in the next blog post:
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March's Question is: How important is vitamin D? Should I have my levels tested or can I just take 1000 IU per day?