‘Recovery’ is the latest buzz word to hit the gym and fitness scene….but why is recovery so important and how much emphasis do you need to put on recovery if you are not an elite athlete?
The four R’s of recovery include Rehydration, Refuel, Recover and Rest. I will briefly explain each point and why it is important.
Simply means to replace the fluid that you have lost through sweat. This is the first step in recovery because our bodies do not function well (physically and mentally) when they are dehydrated and you also continue to sweat for hours after you finish a training session. Athletes always aim to replace 1.5 x their fluid losses because of this. The best fluid choice for rehydration is water, unless you have been working intensely for over 90 minutes, then sports drinks will help you rehydrate faster and they also contain carbohydrates that help you ‘refuel’ which kills two birds with one stone.
Refuel is referring to replacing the fuel that your body has just used up to perform your training. Our bodies preferred fuel of choice to use for exercise, especially intense exercise is carbohydrates. Refuelling with ‘recovery’ foods within 30 minutes of a training session is important because if you have used all of your carbohydrate stores in your muscles (we store it as glycogen) then the faster you replace these stores, the less sore your muscles will be which allows you to train hard the following day if required.
Your ‘refuel’ food may have to be portable if your next meal is not going to be accessible within a reasonable timeframe. This is why there is such a large market for ‘recovery’ type supplements as they are usually non-perishable and portable.
The amount of carbohydrates required is highly variable based on your energy budget (individual energy required every day), your energy expenditure during the training session you have just performed and timing of your next meal. However, aiming for 30 grams of carbohydrates ASAP if your session was over an hour is a good target.
Is referring to protein intake to help your muscles optimise their recovery from any damage they have just incurred from your training session. Literally, damaging muscle fibres is what stimulates them to repair and grow so it is an essential component of training adaptation.
Once again recovery food options that provide protein are more important if your next meal is further than 60 minutes away. There are some great ‘real food’ recovery food options available these days that meet the target intake of 15-25 grams.
Rest is the last piece of the puzzle and is an extremely important component of recovery. Rest is important as it helps lower inflammation of our bodies, which helps our body function better enabling recovery processes to occur. When we are sleeping is also when we build and repair our muscle, so it is recommended that we achieve a minimum of 7.5 hours during heavy training periods.
Recovery is as important as the industry is preaching, but is isn’t as simple as scheduling a ‘rest’ day. It requires a nutrition plan and structured rest to best suit your training and goals.
We have attached below some examples of foods that provide a good balance of carbohydrates and protein to assist with your recovery nutrition choices.