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Recovery typically involves stretching, hydrating and sometimes a post workout snack for most runners to fill their stomachs. But most runners do not understand the importance of refuelling as part of their recovery process and do not know how to go about planning for their recovery after a hard session.
Why is it important for runners to refuel?
From a nutrition point of view, recovery is essentially refuelling and it is crucial in helping an athlete to fully reap the benefits of training. An ideal recovery meal or snack would not only prevent further muscle breakdown and rebuild broken down muscle fibres but also help to optimise muscle and liver glycogen stores which would bring about desired muscle adaptation to the workout. The next time you train at the same intensity, it will find the workout a little easier.
When should runners refuel?
Typically refuelling should be carried out within 30 to 60mins of workout completion. This is a crucial time frame as it is during this window when your muscles are primed to take in nutrients like glycogen and protein which would aid in the rebuilding process.
Without refuelling, your body will continue to breakdown and you are likely to feel fatigued and experience muscle soreness for days. This delay in recovery would in turn affect your next run or training session.
The longer or higher the intensity of the workout, the more important it is to have a recovery snack because of the additional stress the body has gone through and the higher chance the glycogen stores have been depleted.
How should runners refuel?
- For quick and effective muscle restoration, consider starchy foods rather than fruits and soft drinks as your main source of carbs.
- Be sure to consume some carbs within an hour after your workout as it is difficult to refuel your muscle and liver glycogen stores without any glycogen. It is recommended to consume approximately 1g of carbs for every 1kg of body weight.
- Add approximately 15-20g of protein to a recovery meal to help speed up your muscle recovery. Consuming protein can help repair muscles, increase the amount of protein in your muscles which will help you to better adapt to your training.
- Always rehydrate after every workout by adding fluids to your recovery meal as well as through the hours following your workout. Also water is not enough. Be sure to take electrolytes or food containing sodium, chloride and other minerals to ensure that water is retained in your system. Finally drink beyond the point of thirst.
Some great post-workout snacks include Greek yogurt with fruits and honey or a banana with peanut butter. Avocado toast with egg is a crowd favorite. Simple snacks such as nuts, dried fruits or trail mix are perfect for those on-the-go. Fruits such as apples and bananas are handy and would go well with nut butter.