Consuming the right foods can make a significant difference to sports performance. Proper nutrition is as essential for recovery as it is for performance, replacing lost resources and preparing your body for the next training session. Here are some basics of the right training fuel.
There are various energy pathways for metabolizing fuel; they depend on the duration and intensity of your training sessions.
Recovery from moderate-intensity sessions
Keep in mind that this steady state is one that hasn’t exhausted your body too much, so when it comes to recovery, the window available to refuel will be up to 2 hours of finishing. Usually this will tie in with your next meal. The only exception to this may be if you decide to train later in the evening when you have already eaten your dinner. You may come home and feel that you need something to help you recover but also prepare you for bed.
Recovery from endurance sessions
Recovery from endurance sessions is of great importance. Even though you might not have put a large amount of stress on your cardiovascular system or muscles, you have completely depleted your glycogen stores. These need to get replenished as soon as possible.
A combination of protein and carbohydrate is essential as soon as is practically possible: definitely within the 60 minutes of finishing your session and then every two hours after that until your next meal. Aim for 0.25g/kg BW of protein and 1–1.2g/kg BW of carbohydrate.
Let’s take a 65kg/143lb male athlete who has been cycling for three hours; he finished his ride at 2pm. He needs 65–78g carbohydrate and 17g protein.
- 2.30pm: 500ml/17fl oz chocolate milk and banana (75g carbohydrate and 18g protein)
- 4.30pm: 2 slices of wholegrain toast with ½ can baked beans, 150g/5oz fruit yogurt (78g carbohydrate, 17g protein)
- 6.30pm: 3 slices of malt loaf, 50g/1¾oz nuts (any unsalted) (60g carbohydrate, 17g protein)
- 8.30pm: Main meal
This type of refueling is even more important if you are planning another training session within 24 hours.
Recovery from high-intensity training
After high-intensity sessions, it’s extremely important to consume the right foods to help your body to recover properly. This may have been a shorter session but, because of the intensity at which you have been working, you will have probably depleted your glycogen stores. This type of session will also have put a lot of stress on your body and so recovery and repair is going to be paramount, especially if you are planning to have another training session within 12 hours, no matter the type of exercise.
If you are planning to have another session within 12 hours, then make sure recovery is within 30 minutes of finishing this session and includes 1.2g/kg BW carbohydrate and 0.25g/ kg BW protein in a liquid form with fast-acting carbohydrate and easily digestible protein, for example flavored milk or a protein and carbohydrate shake.
If your next training session comes after more than 12 hours, make sure recovery is within 2 hours of finishing this session and includes 1.2g/kg BW carbohydrate and 0.25g/kg BW protein as a meal, for example a jacket potato with tuna and salad, and a glass of milk.