Workout Recovery Nutrition

Last night I went to a local Running Room to speak to one of the running clinics about recovery nutrition. Unfortunately, the group I spoke to was pretty small (5 people) because we had a bit of snow full out blizzard yesterday!

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My drive, which should have taken about half hour, took an hour and a half to get to the Running Room. I kept cursing myself for agreeing to go. However, I just kept telling myself, if some crazy people intend on running in this weather, I can drive there and show up for them.

First the owner from Bikram Calgary South gave a talk on stretching and the importance of balance in your body. I really enjoyed his theories on imbalances in your body. He said that if you have a weak hip for example, you shouldn’t focus on strengthening it to the level of your stronger hip. Instead, you bring down the level of your stronger hip and build them both up together. So for example in yoga, if you cant stretch as far on one side as the other, rather than pushing yourself on your weak side, bring back the stretch on your strong side and build it together. He said this would help with building balance and aligning your body. Definitely something I will keep in mind.

Then it was my turn to talk. Since it was a pretty small group, I kept it very informal and just sat down in front of them rather than a lecture style with me standing and demanding they eat the right things.

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So what did I tell them about recovery nutrition….

First off, recovery nutrition begins long before your workout is complete, it actually begins hours before your workout even begins. Fueling your body pre-workout is VERY important. It can affect your level of fatigue, muscle cramping and more.

When should I eat before a workout?

You want to eat a meal or snack 2-4 hours before you exercise. Every person is very different as to what time works best for them. Some people need that full 4 hours to digest food so they don’t get any cramping or GI distress during the workout and others, such as myself, need to eat much closer to a workout to keep up energy levels and prevent feelings of dizziness. I suggest finding out what time works for you. Try eating 4 hours before, work out and then note how you feel during and after your workout. Next workout try eating 3 hours before and note how you feel. And so on and so forth until you find the best time for you to eat. (Note this will work best if you use a constant meal/snack during the testing phase).

What should I eat before a workout?

It’s very simple, CARBOHYDRATES!

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Due to many articles and fad diets so many people are terrified of carbohydrates. But during exercise, that’s the fuel your body wants! You can think of your body like a gas tank, your body runs on carbs during exercise. If you go into exercise with an empty gas tank you are going to run out of energy and you will not have a great workout, so you need to fill up the tank before you go.

Examples of great things to have pre-workout are toast with peanut butter, piece of fruit, greek yogurt, chocolate milk or half a bagel.

You do want to limit amount of fat and fibre in your pre-workout meal as these slow down digestion and can cause GI distress. So if you’re going to have a muffin, maybe shy away from bran or you may experience some unexpected bathroom breaks…

In addition to carbs, you need to hydrate your body! The speaker from yoga talked so much about hydration and how it lubricates your muscle and allows for more fluid movement.

What about after I workout?

Research has shown that the optimal time to eat is within 30 minutes post workout to maximize the recovery benefits of nutrition. What you want to eat in that timeframe is carbohydrates & protein.

While you were working out, you used up that fuel in your gas tank so you need to fill it back up with carbohydrates. (15-30g carbohydrates is recommended) You also want protein to help with muscle repair and synthesis.

An excellent post workout drink is chocolate milk as it contains carbohydrates, protein, water and electrolytes. It’s like an all-in-one natural supplement of what you need post workout! And it’s great because it’s YUMMMMMY!! It can keep you going that extra mile or extra couple reps if you think of your chocolate milk reward waiting for you when you’re done.

Some other great options are smoothies with added whey protein, power bars, homemade granola protein bars, fruit with trail mix, greek yogurt or apple with peanut butter.

And last but not least, you need to again HYDRATE! It’s so important to replace the water that you lost during your exercise. Water recommendations for women are about 2L per day and for men about 3L. If you are exercising you should drink even more.

So I finished up my talk and it was time for my runners to head out on their run. They asked me if I was going to join them. I just laughed, I’m seriously not that crazy! But I wished them luck.

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When they came back I greeted them with a perfect post run recovery beverage…chocolate milk!

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What do you eat/drink post workout to maximize recovery? Have you tried chocolate milk post-workout?

**Full Disclosure – I am contracted by the Powered by Chocolate Milk Campaign, however i would not endorse any food or product I did not believe in **

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