Today I was one of the participants in another Gymchat – this time talking about recovery foods. Some interesting topics and opinions were discussed, and, as always, nutrition is a fun topic!
Gymchat 169 – Recovery Foods
When you’ve pushed your body to the limit, how do you recover?
This week we’re taking a look at another piece of the recovery puzzle, food. The things that cause the varying levels of soreness following your workouts/competitions/races, and how to minimise their effects through targeted nutrition. What to consume, when and in which forms.
Helping us explore this fascinating topic is none other than ultrarunner, airline captain and insanely competitive triathlete, +Chas Melichar. Fantastic.
Quick note before we start : I’ve got a few questions myself, but I’m also keen to hear from everyone else here. If you’ve got any diet-related questions for +Chas Melichar, just jump right in. We’ll get through as many as we can.
Basically, I’m an ultrarunner and triathlete in the longer distances. Currently, I’m tapering for the Comrades Marathon, which is the world’s largest marathon held in South Africa I’m one of 159 Americans that will be running the race. Needless to say, when training for Iron-length (2.4 mile swim/ 112 Mile Bike / 26.2 mile run) triathlons and 56+ mile runs, I spend a lot of time with recovery. And, I like to eat.
I’m also not the youngest or the fastest, which means I spend a lot of time out on the courses. My longest 50k (31.2mile) trail ultra took me 8 hours and 40 minutes to finish (with over 9,000′ elevation change). Being able to recover quickly is key when you’re doing 2 1/2 Ironmans, 4 ultras, and an Ironman in one year.
For me, many studies have shown that calories ingested within (and I’ve heard 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour… etc) a certain time after a workout in a ratio of 4carbs to 1 protein seems to be relatively effective for helping muscle recover from exertion. The current “fad” seems to be lowfat organic chocolate milk … That, and foods high in anti-inflammatory properties (ie, anything “berry”) seem to help.
IMHO, though, recovery foods continue to the end of the day, including taking a slow-digesting protein (casein) before bed. Recovery, in my opinion, is much more than just what happens immediately after the workout. Recovery also happens when you sleep, so you need to make sure you sleep with the right recovery nutrients (which isn’t to say you should eat immediately before bed a bunch of cheetos).
I do think that after a tough workout – whether strength training or endurance training – ingesting calories in the proper forms is important. If you’re building mass, then more protein seems like it would be more appropriate, whereas if you’re doing hard endurance, something more of the 4:1 ratio might be better. What I can say is that during a recent charter flight of a professional football team, there was a LOT of chocolate milk being drank, and those guys range from big and muscle to lean and fast.
I’m loving my caseine shake before bed. It’s hard to mix, but it’s a slow-digesting protein that the body can use overnight. Despite being an endurance athlete, I learned that trick from a strength-building website. Ihate going to bed hungry. But I’ve noticed that since I started doing that, my fat mass has decreased, my weight stayed about the same, and My Sweetheart has started more and more comments about how sexy-muscle my back looks. Win-win.
+Scott Bird I’ve become a creature of habit, actually, and usually have just the caseine shake. In the morning, I have a whey-protein shake mixed with banana, greek yogurt, raw egg, cottage cheese, and almond milk. Studies say that whey when mixed with other forms of protein will slow digestion. Plus that tends to the 40/30/30 ratio of carbs/fat/protein that I try to balance (not always successfully).
+Scott Bird I know a lot of diet advice says to not eat right before bed, or 2 hours before bed. If you’re exercising, I think that’s poor advice. If you’re JUST dieting (always a bad idea IMHO) then maybe that will help. But it’s always what you eat before bed (don’t eat a bunch of energy carbs!) that matter, too.
I feel that anything with anti-inflammatory properties will help in that area. To avoid DOMS that’s where the post-workout meal comes in, plus overall nutrition. But foods high in anti-oxidents (yes, dark chocolate for example), tea, blueberries, even quercetin can help immensely. You find high amounts of quercitin mostly in FRS products, but also in other supplements.
+Scott Bird Caffeine effects people different, also, before bedtime, but although it’s an “obvious” thing to avoid, you’d be surprised… sometimes it’s in foods you wouldn’t expect. So, before bed, keep away from fruits, or items with sugar, or heavy foods – but you have to figure out what works for you by experimenting and reading things like Gymchat to get ideas!
+Scott Bird After stressing the body, you’re going to crave things to help replace those nutrients you’ve used. You need to provide the body those things it needs the most – after a strong strength workout, you need protein – but lean protein (fish, which also contains Omega-3′s). You need to feed that hunger in a healthy way! Don’t forget your fats – any diet or recovery that avoids carbs, fats, or lean proteins is a bad idea, really. Finally, when you start eating healthier, you’ll start feeling better, and as most of us will admit – 90% of any workout is mental – both “talking” (making your muscles work) and “listening” (not pushing them to injury).
I really like ’90% of any workout is mental – both “talking” (making your muscles work) and “listening” (not pushing them to injury)’.Post workout foods : I tend to eat whatever’s available, and easy to prepare. I love cooking, but not straight after a workout
+Scott Bird Ultimately I think yes because to be a good endurance athlete, you need good core strength. Also, I’ve noticed elite endurance athletes are adding more strength training to their regimens to help offset muscle loss during endurance. Also, keeping a good nutrition helps keep loss from occurring at any time. I’m not sure that all endurance athletes would agree with that, but it definitely makes you look better .
I also think that if you’re craving something in particular – once you break your addiction to sugar most American’s have – it’s your body telling you that it needs something. If you’re craving, for example, a steak – big, juicy steak – you might be needing more iron. Think about the whyyou’re hungry for something, and choice wisely, but listen to what you’re really hungry for – before bed, or during the day. The key is to break that sugar addiction first. Or have a 85% cacao dark chocolate piece .
+Scott Bird That’s the great thing about the fitness world – they are continuingly inventing new ways of exercise. I think a smart idea is to change things up – keep the body confused – crossfit, balance ball, deadweights, etc… But then again I get bored easily. Lately I’ve wanted to try some of the TRX stuff – because I haven’t before, it looks like not only great strength training, but great core work. So I keep my eyes out for new stuff all the time. For a staple, though, the classic p90x can’t be beat . For us endurance types, core focus is key I feel.
I guess I feel the key to getting past an injury with nutrition includes RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – and eating the right foods. A search on the internet can give you some great natural remedies which doesn’t make the pharmaceuticals happy or they say they dont work – but one thing is for sure – eating healthier doesn’t HURT.
+Amit Sinha, I’m also keen to hear your thoughts on the low-carb thing. I suspect that a lot of people you train with are also on similar diets : do they all have pretty much the same post-workout routines?
For those Paleo and Primal fans you’ll have to find your protein in the legumes world – or other vegetable proteins. Just don’t ignore the protein, no matter the source, since life is balance (again, in my opinion) and keeping a balanced diet is important. Too much of any one thing (even veggies) isn’t ultimately good. The problem with vegetable protein is it is incomplete when compared to protein from meat. This is due to meat protein containing all nine of the essential amino acids. In contrast, vegetables do not contain the full number. So a greater variety of veggies are necessary ( but they are nutrient dense).
Never tried the fasting thing +Amit Sinha - would love to hear your thoughts on it.+Chas Melichar : fair enough.A common piece of post-surgery advice is to drink plenty of water; to flush out the bladder, prevent dehydration and a host of other benefits. Does the same sort of thing – increasing fluid intake – apply to the period following a hard training session or race?
+Scott Bird Wow I can’t believe I didn’t mention that first! Nutrition definitely includes water, and in this society we drink way too little water! DEFINITELY post workout water is very, very important… Throughout the day, too. In fact, we have a ritual – 16 swallows of water before bed, and anytime I wake, 4 swallows of water throughout the night, so I don’t wake dehydrated. You can drink too much water, but that’s not too much of a problem in our society it seems.
+Scott Bird I definitely think the wound healing foods are very helpful with recovery – when you realize that buidling muscle involves tearingfibers, it does make sense to me. Additionally, when I started I drank lots of water, but didn’t think about replacing some of those calories I burnt with healthy calorie intake. Found I lose or maintain weight better by helping replace used nutrients rather than trying to “starve” to lose the weight!
IFing is doable bc there are days when work is so busy so I basically eat my last meal at dinner & break the fast 24 hrs later or 16hrs later, depending on what’s going on that day..works out great bc water still keeps me full.
Chas is an Airline Captain, 2x Ironman Finisher (15:17), 2x Comrades (Ultra) Marathon (SA) Finisher, triathlete, and nothing Special. He is truly a purely average to below average guy just trying to do extraordinary things.