Written by Hannah Dykstra
As an athlete or fitness enthusiast, food is one of the most important factors when it comes to performance and health. Most athletes believe we eat to prepare for our workouts, games, races or events, which is true to the extent that we need fuel for energy, but when is the appropriate time to fuel to expend that energy? We need to transform the way we think about training and nutrition from preparation to recovery. Think of your body as a car – you fill the gas tank after you have emptied it. So, with that in mind, we need to refuel our body’s gas tank after we have emptied it as well. We eat to recover and refuel ourselves with emphasis on the recovery.
As athletes, we should consider our post workout meals one of, if the not the most important meal of the day. This recover and refuel approach will fill the tank after you’ve emptied it an leave it full for the next day of energy expenditure. Here are the key aspects that make nutrition for recovery so important:
During hard, intense workouts (such as CrossFit), you can use up all of your glycogen storage (aka your fuel) for these types of workouts. Glucose is the most important source of fuel, meaning it is the first source to be depleted after a hard training session. Think of the car analogy again – your body is the car and glycogen is the gas – once it is emptied, it must be refueled, so there is A) no further damage to the engine and B) it is fueled up and ready for the next road trip. Earn your carbs through an awesome training session and take in the adequate amount of carbs to replace that lost glycogen. If you take in the right amount of carbs, not only will your body use those carbs for replacement purposes, but your body will also store it as bioavailable energy for the next day. Depending on your training day, your body may need anywhere from .5-2g carbs per pound of body weight per day.
Protein is literally the building block of muscle, making it the most important macronutrient necessary for building lean muscle. Just like glycogen, muscle tissue can be broken down through intense training and needs to be replenished for recovery via protein. Since protein constructs the muscles, athletes need to consume just the right amount to repair the broken down tissue and allow that same tissue to grow. The most commonly recommended intake of protein is about 1g per pound of lean body mass. Too little protein can inhibit muscle loss and too much can be synthesized in your body as excess calories.
“Wait, but don’t fats make you fat?” No! Although fats aren’t as important as carbs and protein for recovery purposes, they are still essential for body composition, performance and overall health. Fats form hormones necessary to construct cells, support our joints and regulate our physical and emotional stress levels. Fat is the most calorically dense macronutrient containing 9 calories per gram, therefore you don’t need large quantities to achieve the necessary amount. Fat consumption should stay around 30% of total calories for healthy hormone response, any drop below 15% and you will see your hormones respond negatively.
During intense exercise, your body can lose a lot of water. Water and electrolytes play a very essential role in recovery. Track your water consumption starting with about 5 ounces of fluid per 100 calories of food consumed.
As a fitness enthusiasts, we must learn to respect our bodies for the super powers it gives us. As cliche as it sounds, we have become so consumed of how it looks on the outside that we lose the respect for all it provides us from the inside. If you’re hungry that’s a signal from your brain telling you it needs something in order to supply more super human powers. I have said it before and I will continue to say it, become a student of your own body!