When you’ve exercised hard and feel stiff, sore, and tired, you may wonder, If I were to eat better, would I recover faster? Without a doubt, consuming the appropriate foods and fluids can affect your recovery (as can doing light exercise for 10 to 20 minutes while you are cooling down to assist with removal of lactic acid from the blood and muscles). Many of my clients have questions about their recovery diets:
- Football players want to know what they should eat after morning practice to prepare for the afternoon session.
- People who lift weights wonder if they should eat extra protein after workouts to repair muscles.
- Squash players seek foods that will prepare them for the next day’s match.
- Swimmers search for the proper foods that will get them through a heavy season of training and competing without deterioration and chronic fatigue.
When you deal with the rigors of a tough training schedule, remember that what you eat after a hard workout or competition affects your recovery. For the serious athlete, foods eaten after exercise require the same careful selection as the meal before exercise. You should not separate your recovery diet from your daily diet. By wisely choosing your foods and fluids both right after you finish exercising and throughout the day, you will recover as best as you possibly can for the next workout.
If you are a recreational exerciser who works out three or four times per week, you need not worry about your recovery diet because you have enough time to refuel your muscle glycogen stores before your next workout. But you should be concerned about your recovery diet if you are a competitive athlete who does two or more workouts per day, such as a soccer player at training camp who practices morning and afternoon, a competitive swimmer who competes in multiple events per meet, a triathlete who trains twice per day, an aerobics instructor who teaches several classes daily, or a basketball player who needs to endure an entire season of intense training and competing. To recover and refuel for the next bout, you should pay particular attention to what you eat right after the first session.