A general guide to using nutrition to aid recovery
If there is one thing that differentiates the nutritional needs of triathletes compared to other types of sport, it is the frequency of sequential training sessions the average triathlete will “back up” for. It is almost considered normal for an athlete training for triathlons to be out of bed at 4 or 5 in the morning for a 2 to 3 hour ride, back up at lunch for a swim and run set, followed by another 2-3 hour session in the evening. Obviously, it is vitally important that the right types of foods are eaten immediately after each of these sessions to ensure optimal muscle glycogen replacement in preparation for the next session. Compare some of these examples to see how your current recovery foods fare in terms of achieving all your own nutrition requirements.
It is well documented in the sports nutrition scientific literature that muscle glycogen replacement is significantly greater if high glycaemic index carbohydrate foods are consumed within thirty minutes of an intense session. This means it is extremely important that a range of these food types are kept in the car, workout bag, office desk drawer and briefcase to be consumed immediately after each session. Keep in mind that is not enough to just rely on these foods. You will also need to consume your regular meal, a balanced choice of low glycaemic index carbohydrate, protein and unsaturated fat, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
There is a wide range of high glycaemic index, high carbohydrate foods to choose from, ranging from the more expensive sports foods such as carbohydrate gels and protein/carbohydrate bars to basic cereal bars, sports drinks, fruit and white bread. The absolute amount of carbohydrate each individual requires immediately post training will differ depending on the individuals overall goals eg if they are trying to lose body fat, gain lean body tissue or maintain current weight. There is also some evidence to show that consuming some protein in addition to high glycaemic index carbohydrate will help muscle regeneration. A general rule of thumb is to choose recovery foods that contain 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per serve and up to 20g of protein.
Here are some ideal “recovery foods” and some ideas on how to use them: