It’s me again. Incase you haven’t read it, I featured on the Run Talk Run website with a previous blog post discussing optimal nutrition for endurance runners. If you found that information useful, I hope you find this next installment on post-exercise nutrition for optimal recovery equally beneficial.
So to very briefly recap last month’s post, it focused mainly on carbohydrates as the most appropriate fuel for exercise. And guess what? Carbohydrates are important for refuelling, too!
Much like in the previous post; carbohydrates, quantity and the timing of consumption are important factors to consider for post-exercise refuelling.
The daily amount of carbohydrates required for an active runner is in the range of 7-12g/kg of body weight per day, and this also depends on the workload and amount of muscle mass involved. As someone weighing 76kg, my carbohydrate requirements would range from 532g per day up to 912g per day and the amount of carbs I need would depend on my level of activity throughout each day. Understandably, this amount will vary amongst individuals and again leads to the importance of experimenting with the quantities of carbohydrates consumed post-exercise and then monitoring how energised you feel at your next training session.
The importance of post-exercise carbohydrates
It was previously mentioned in the last blog that we use carbohydrates stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen to fuel exercise sessions. When these energy levels are depleted, it’s important we refuel using the appropriate nutrition so that we maintain these glycogen stores. We can begin the process of effective recovery of muscle glycogen stores by eating a high-carbohydrate meal or snack providing at least 1g/kg (weight 76kg = 76g) of carbohydrate within 15-30 minutes of finishing your exercise session. If there is a gap of 8hr or less between workouts, it’s very important to utilise the time immediately after training to take on board some carbohydrates and ensure recovery time is effective. If you do have more time to recover then immediate carbohydrate consumption is unneccessary and you are afforded the opportunity to follow your preferred eating schedule, providing you meet your total carbohydrate requirements over the course of the day. Reports do suggest that delaying carb intakes by as little as two hours after exercise can reduce the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis by 50% which is certainly something to think about if you typically do not consume anything within 2 hours of ending a run.
The role of post-exercise protein
Certain amino acids have a complimentary effect on the secretion of insulin, which is a stimulator of glycogen resynthesis. Although the evidence to suggest carbohydrate-protein combinations enhances refuelling is uncertain, there are a number of other reasons why protein should be included as part of the recovery process. A relatively small amount of protein (20-25g) may lead to increases in muscle size and strength, it can help repair damaged tissue and offer a supportive role in exercise metabolism.
Key messages of post-exercise refuelling:
- Consume 1g/kg of carbohydrates within 15-30 minutes after completion when recovery time is < 8 hours.
- Always make sure you consume a carbohydrate-protein combo within 2 hours after exercise.
- 7-12g/kg results in the maintenance of muscle glycogen stores on a 24hr basis in trained athletes.
- A 20-25g intake of high quality protein after a strenuous workout enhances recovery.
- Increase the number of meals and snacks, rather than the size of meals. Think little and often.
- Organise snacks for post-exercise refuelling.
- Carbohydrate-rich drinks offer a compact source of post-exercise nutrition.
- Use your body weight in kg to determine how much carbohydrate you need daily especially when training regularly.
Carbohydrate-Protein combinations to fuel recovery:
- Wholegrain cereals or porridge oats with milk and your preferred toppings.
- Sandwiches, wraps, bagels, rolls etc with lean meats, cheese.
- Sweetened dairy products e.g. flavoured milk, fruit flavoured yoghurt, milkshakes/fruit smoothies
- Rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes with skins left on, accompanied with lean meat/alternatives and vegetables.
Much like in the previous blog I think it’s important to highlight how energy requirements differ between all of us. The sports nutrition requirements of an athlete are dependant on their level of exercise intensity, and muscle fuel needs in relation to their body size which is why this blog referred to carbohydrate intakes in terms of grams per kilogram of my own body weight. Using our own weight in kg to determine our carbohydrate requirements allows us to work out the total amount of carbs we need, how much we need post-exercise and how we can form appropriate meals to ensure we achieve our carbohydrate target.
Once again, be confident in experimenting with your post-run nutrition. Focus on the outcomes of your next run, especially if your goal is to run faster or further. Keep in mind how your energy levels feel to determine whether you are reaching your carbohydrate requirements.
I hope this has given you an understanding of why carbohydrates are important for refuelling after a run. If you would like personal guidance and nutritional support then please feel free to contact me on any social media formats and we can discuss your circumstances in greater detail.
Website – www.librahealthandnutrition.co.uk
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If you have any requests on blog topics please do send a message over, but in the meantime I hope this has given you a better understanding of post-exercise nutrition!