The information around what to eat for recovery is very one dimensional, often leading people to make mistakes. There are three common mistakes I see people making: not eating enough carbohydrates, inconsistent hydration, and consuming the wrong macronutrient ratios.
To avoid these mistakes and more, follow the three principles of recovery nutrition:
- Replenish Glycogen Storages
The first principle to recovery is carbohydrate consumption and timing. Focus on consuming starchy carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed and easy to digest as close to the finish of your workout as possible. You want to consume these fast assimilating carbs during the glycogen window. This "window" is the time frame (roughly 30 minutes to two hours past your workout time) where your body replenishes what your body has depleted during the ride the most effectively.
The second recovery principle is replenishing your fluids and electrolytes. This begins with staying on top of your hydration during exercise. On average, aim for about a bottle of liquid per hour of effort. Make sure and check the temperature and be aware of your training load and intensity as you may need to increase your intake. After training, it is essential to take in fluids, for an average ride, I recommend one liter after your rides.
3. Rebuild and Repair Muscles
The final principle is about rebuilding your muscles after the breakdown from exercise. Many athletes like to go heavy on recovery drinks, but we avoid a heavy focus on the protein consumption immediately post-ride for a couple of reasons. As we discussed earlier, the priority is consuming and absorbing those carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores. If you consume too much protein in that timeframe, it can interfere with carbohydrate absorption. But protein is essential to decreasing muscle breakdown, so aim to consume 25-35 grams of protein post-ride, but after you eat the carbs. I prefer real food, but if you do opt for a recovery drink, go for a drink mix made with high-quality ingredients, and has a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein and get the rest of your carbs within the two-hour window.
If you follow these three dimensions after your workouts, you will recover like a pro, setting yourself up to become leaner, fitter, and stronger. These three principals are just a small piece of our 3 Sigma Nutrition System. Sports nutrition can be confusing and complicated, but it doesn't have to be with the right process in place.