Nutrient timing seems to be the buzz word around town, so let’s take a look at what it’s all about. For starters, I’m sure most of you have heard about the importance of whole grains, eating smaller, more frequent meals, and keeping your sugar intake low. This is all true, but there is a time and place for sugar and maximizing your muscle recovery as well as sustaining a better performance during and after exercise. Each athlete is different, some need more protein than others, some need more carbohydrate, but there are some similarities in the optimal recovery for all types.
To begin, there are typically three phases for most athletes; before exercise, during exercise, and post exercise.
Before exercise eating or drinking something that contains both carbohydrate and protein has been shown to decrease muscle breakdown as well as increase protein synthesis. New research has shown that protein is actually helpful before and during exercise, not just post exercise. The ironic thing is that some people may not realize that bread, cereal, sports bars, and milk/dairy all contain protein in small amounts, some greater than others.
More importantly consuming a drink that contains electrolytes, protein, and carbohydrate during exercise reduces muscle breakdown and also maintains glycogen stores and hydration, which will enhance performance. For exercise over an hour consume about 4oz. every 15-20 minutes depending on the exercise and duration. Using a small amount of protein during a workout will also help start protein synthesis post-workout. Some athletes opt to use amino acids instead due to stomach discomfort with sports drinks that contain protein. Choose the best option for you.
Post-workout is the most important phase for maximizing your muscles ability to repair itself. A solution of carbohydrate, protein, electrolytes, and antioxidants is most beneficial for achieving all desired outcomes in terms of recovery and body balance. About 30-45 grams of simple carbohydrate and >10 grams of protein post exercise would be ideal for recovery. Three other supplements are important in recovery; antioxidants, leucine and glutamine. Antioxidants will reduce free radical damage produced by exercise and prevent muscle degradation. Antioxidants can be found in various fruit and vegetables, while the amino acids leucine and glutamine can be added as powder into your drink mixture. Do all this within 45 minutes of your workout. This is the time during the day to have the simple sugars which will work with insulin during its sensitive phase to regulate protein synthesis.
Example day: 2 eggs sautéed with veggies and quinoa, tomato on top, fruit with nut butter. During workout consume Skratch Labs drink mix or similar product. For workouts that are extremely long or intense try acai juice, greens powder like Skoop, honey, 12 ounces water/ice, 1/8th tsp “Real” salt (amt. depending on sweat rate and humidity), grass fed whey protein or vegan protein powder, 1-2 grams of glutamine. If the workout is not as long or intense you can feel good about eating your next regular meal or snack within 45 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day eat something with complex carbohydrates and protein every 2-4 hours tapering off of the carbohydrate in the evening as you become less active. Focus more on beneficial fats, vegetables, water, and lean protein as they are essential for proper recovery.
Each person is different and finding what works best for YOU is what it’s all about.