After any training session tired muscles need to be refuelled and, if you are building muscle, protein and amino acids are going to be essential. What you eat in recovery can help you to be ready for your next training session and help you to make the most of the physical work you have just put in.
Step 1: Hydrate
Sweating and water loss with your breath can leave you dehydrated. This makes it harder for muscles to recover and drops your energy levels. Make sure you top up with plenty of water after training – even if you drank plenty during your session. A good tip is to drink enough water that your pee is clear. This may take a few hours but it is a great way to know you have given your body back the fluids you lost.
Step 2: Protein
When we train we develop “micro-tears” in our muscles – this is why you can feel sore after training, especially in the early days. As your body repairs these micro-tears, extra muscle is added and this is how we increase the amount of muscle on our bodies. Amino acids are essential for this and protein foods are great sources of the amino acids your body needs. Fish is an excellent source of protein, giving your body all of the essential acids your body needs along with the B vitamins that help your body to release energy from food and reduce tiredness and fatigue. Other good sources of protein are meat, chicken, eggs. Beans, lentils and nuts also provide protein but must be eaten with grains to give your body all of the essential amino acids.
Eating a protein food shortly after training – anything from 30 minutes to two hours after – can help. Try a pack of John West tuna; some yoghurt; a chicken sandwich or peanut butter and crackers. You are aiming to get around 15-20g of protein in at this time.
Step 3: Carbs
Working muscles need carbs. In the 30 minutes after training, your body is keen to replace the carbs you burned during your session. You can replace carbs with a sports drink but it’s great if you can combine your after-training carbs with your protein. Typically you need 1-1.5g of carbs per kg of your body weight after training. Link this with the 15-20g of protein you need and this can be tuna with wholegrain crackers; Greek yoghurt and a banana; peanut butter sandwich or a muesli bar with a handful of nuts.
Get into the habit of keeping some handy snacks in your kit bag so that you are always ready to refuel. Crackers, tuna, cereal bars and nuts are all snacks that will keep well and keep you going as you cycle through your training and recovery.
Sarah Keogh in association with John West
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.