Nutrition: Eating for Recovery
Last weekend I did a piece on Alternative Energy Foods, giving some ideas about how you can effectively fuel your body for long hours in the saddle, without spending the world on energy bars and gels.
This week I turn to recovery; a topic that is just as important as training itself; but something that many of us neglect (including myself from time to time). A key part of recovery is the food we eat after a hard ride; this blog post gives a few ideas on how to refuel and re-energize after training and racing, so that you are ready for another hard day in the saddle the day after.
On finishing a hard ride, your muscles are worn down and fatigued. In order to start the recovery process as quickly as possible, you want to get protein to them while the blood is still pumping to them at a fast rate. This means taking on between 15-25 grams of protein within 25 mins of stopping cycling. This can be a tough ask when you all you may want to do is have a hot bath, wash your bike off or collapse on the sofa. Below are a few effective ways of getting protein in your system fast:
Protein Packed Lunches
- Protein Shakes: An expensive solution, but highly effective. Protein shakes come from many manufacturers now, and are a quick way of getting quality (usually whey) protein in you. You don't have to buy from a cycling specific brand; there are plenty of body building companies that will provide the same thing (often at a lower price) such as My Protein. However, my favourite at the moment is the REGO Recovery Shake from Science in Sport - it's easy to drink, not too sweet and mixes well with water.
- Home-made Shakes: These take a bit more time, but are cheaper, tastier and just as effective. A full recipe for my own home-made shake that you can make in a blender in a few minutes can be found on this Blog post: Recipe: Homemade Recovery Shakes
- Protein Bars: Similarly pricey and effective as a protein shake, but easier to transport; protein bars come from a number of different brands. My favourite is the Honey Stinger Dark Chocolate and Cherry Almond Bar. If you do have a protein bar, remember to have a good drink with it as well. Our bodies are made of 70% water, and that means our muscles as well! So in order to repair and build muscle you need to be sufficiently hydrated.
- Milk: Perhaps the simplest solution, a pint of milk will contain the same amount of protein as a shake and is cheap and easy. If there was ever a "Super-Drink" it has to be milk - it contains so many nutrients and minerals that are helpful to rebuilding our muscles, and is in fact very effective at re-hydrating yourself too.
Protein Packed Lunches
Many of us train in the morning, and as a result rather than taking specific protein products when we get home around mid-day, you can simply have a protein rich lunch in substitute. Below are three cheap (student) ideas for tasty and healthy, protein rich lunches:
- Poached Eggs On Toast: Simple, quick and easy. Eggs are another super-food for sure, they contain some of the best protein there is, and are packed with nutrients and relatively low fat. The myth that eating lots of eggs raises your cholesterol level was proven wrong a few years back as the cholesterol in eggs is in fact "good cholesterol". Carbohydrate is also important to take on after exercise as you need energy to start the repair of muscles. Wholegrain bread is a healthy choice and makes a good base for your any lunch.
- Tuna Sandwiches: Tuna packs a serious protein punch; with over 30 grams in a standard tin. Mix it up with mayo and sweetcorn and have it in a sandwich or with pasta.
- Beans On Toast: A great source of protein as well, and with plenty of carbs, fibre and vitamins in there too. Beans on toast is a cheap, simple and tasty way of getting your lunchtime protein.
So that's it. Simple really... Once you get back from your ride you need to eat something, which is rich in protein, carbs and nutrients to help your body start recovering as effectively and quickly as possible. There are a number of ways of doing that, and they don't have to cost the earth; but the consequence of not doing them can cost your cycling performance dearly.