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Nutrition for Recovery from Training

One of the key but often forgotten elements of training and performance is recovery, and nutrition is an essential part of this. Without adequate recovery, our bodies will struggle to adapt to training. The basics of nutrition for recovery from training will be discussed in this blog.

When looking at recovery nutrition, there are 4 key areas to consider:

1. Refuel: Our bodies use carbohydrates for energy, and carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen. After training, one of the main aims is to refill our stores of carbohydrates. However, the amount of carbohydrates you need after training will depend on the type, intensity, and duration of training, and also how much time you have to recover before your next session.

For example, if you are recreationally active (e.g., walking most days and doing 2 weight training sessions weekly, or jogging 2-3 times per week plus 2 weight training sessions), it is unlikely you will need to have extra carbohydrates for recovery.

However, if you are recreationally active but are doing more intense training such as training for a marathon, you may benefit from extra carbohydrates for both training and recovery. Similarly, if you are doing intense training on the pitch, it is likely that you would benefit from extra carbohydrates after training. If you have <8-hours before your next training session, you will need plenty of carbohydrates to replenish your stores. In this case, carbohydrates that are easily digested and absorbed such as those from sports drinks, cereal bars, low-fibre cereals (e.g., Rice Krispies, Coco Pops) and fruit juices might be a good option. If you have more time to recover, then a post-training snack followed by your regular meals may be enough.

2. Repair: To allow our muscles to repair and adapt, protein is needed after training. Having a protein source in your meals at regular intervals after training will help with this.

3. Rehydrate: After training, it is important to remember that you will often have lost fluid through sweat, and this fluid needs to be replaced to prevent dehydration. An easy way to check your hydration status is looking at urine colour – if it is dark yellow or dark orange, you may be dehydrated. You may also need to replace electrolytes if you have sweated a lot during training or if you were training in hot weather as electrolytes are lost with sweat.

4. Rest: Be sure to take time to rest – this can be total rest or an active recovery. Getting enough sleep is also a key part of this.

For after a match or training session, having snacks to hand in your gear bag is an easy way to get your recovery started. Some ideas include:

- A carton of milk or protein milk + a banana or cereal bar

- A high protein yogurt + fruit or fruit juice or cereal bar

- A whey protein shake + fruit or cereal bar

- Sandwich with meat filling

If you have done high intensity training, as discussed above the most important thing is to have a source of carbohydrates and protein in your recovery meal. For a balanced meal, include a source of healthy fats such as cheese, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, avocado, and olive oil. Your recovery meal does not need to be anything extravagant. Simple ideas include:

- Pesto pasta with chicken and parmesan

- Scrambled egg and beans on toast or a bagel

- Ham, cheese, and salad sandwich

- Microwave rice with tuna, vegetables, and avocado

- Noodles with chicken and stir-fry vegetables cooked in olive oil with sauce (e.g., soy sauce and honey or packet of stir-fry sauce).

If you don’t have an appetite after training, or if you trained late in the evening and don’t want to eat too much before going to bed, light meals or snacks might be useful such as:

- Beans or scrambled egg on toast

- Cereal with milk and a yogurt

- Overnight oats

Again, recovery nutrition can be very individual as what you need will depend on the type, frequency, duration, and intensity of training. However, recovery is key for optimal performance so it should not be neglected.

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