Fast Food and Recovery – Extra work for your body

banana and pancake stack

The amount of times I’ve heard the comment “I just did a triathlon so I deserve to eat this food to replace all the fat I just used up” while they consume some processed food product from our contemporary societies fast food chain, I thought it would be good to write an article about the adverse effects of processed foods on our training and recovery.

Now I don’t want to be a total pessimist about eating food you love and having a good time as after all we have just completed something crazy in the views of the general public. Eating some nutritionally challenged food once in a while as a reward is not life threatening. Especially if it is after a major race. Australians are smack bang in the middle of our race season and so this article is mainly focused on post-race meals and acknowledging what you are actually consuming and how crucial food can be.

Even the leanest of athletes would normally have enough body fat to fuel them for two full Ironman races back to back. This seems hard to believe but humans are made to store fat for survival methods. Therefore you don’t have to feed your body fat from trans-fat or saturated fat foods for it to have enough fat storage, in fact this is a very bad idea. If your body needs more fat stores it will draw it from any food source and convert it into fat. For example is you consumed a bowl of oats, banana, nuts and chai seeds your body would gain plenty of fat from the nuts and the chai seeds. If it needed more it would draw on the carbohydrates from the banana and the oats into fat storages. However this is a very rare situation. Simplistically we do not need to eat Tran’s fatty processed foods to replenish our fat stores. Eating nutritional food that is rebuilding our body will do the job in a much more resourceful way.

When we exercise at high intensities we place a great demand of stress on our body which weakens our immune system and rises cortisol levels. Our bodies begin searching for nutrients to rebuild itself, to assist in this process we need to make sure we decrease any other stress placed on our body to accommodate for the augmented physical strain that comes with endurance competition or training i.e. nutritional stress. The speed and recovery of cell reconstruction after exercise depends on the body’s enzyme levels.

Enzymes are molecules that are responsible for thousands of metabolic processes in our bodies, therefore if we call on our enzymes to breakdown food we cause a deficit in other areas like repairing wear and tear of muscles and slowing the reconstruction process.

Processed foods do not hold readily available enzymes for the body to use. Our bodies are forced to produce enzymes in order to break these foods down creating a negative enzyme effect in our body. Simplistically by eating processed foods you are not only going to be malnourished but you are creating an adverse effect on recovery, slowing down the rate of recovery furthermore than if you didn’t eat anything at all.

Let’s have a look at the effect of consuming a fastfood chain burger.

On average they contain 500+ calories, 250+ of those calories are pure fat (almost 50%). It may only have 3-4g of dietary fiber, 9-10g of sugar, 10+g of saturated fat and 5mg of iron. The list of ingredients for the buns alone are often abundant with chemicals such as high fructose corn syrup, bleached wheat flour and ammonium chloride. It is so full of toxic chemicals how this can be called real food is a mystery. It is almost completely deficient in fiber (3g), vitamins and minerals. After consuming a this burger your body will require almost as much energy to break down the food as it produces into useable fuel but adding copious amounts of toxins into the body. Immune cells perceive these toxins as invader and try to break them down by secreting large amounts of inflammatory agents resulting in inflamed muscle tissue and joints. Once again not only slowing down the recovery process but adding to it.

Processed food is completely empty of any nutritional value but adds further stress to our digestive system as it is enzyme depleted. Remember without enzymes food cannot be turned into usable fuel. So ultimately when we consume processed foods we are diminishing our immune system, restricting muscular cell reproduction (catabolic effect), elevating stress levels in your body, increases cortisol levels which breaks down more muscle tissue and malnourishing our body. All of these effects results in fatigue and stress to the body so our recovery time can be nearly doubled. If you are in the middle of the race season than this can place a major setback to your next event. Repeatedly placing your body under stress can cause sleep difficulties or hormone imbalances which can affect electrolyte function and reducing the body’s ability to stay adequately hydrated and resulting in cramping at your next physical workout or race.

[infobox color=”eg. light, green, blue, yellow, red”]FACT: Consuming high-quality nutritional foods post exercise dramatically increases the effectiveness of the workout without the need to increase the intensity or duration![/infobox]

Instead of refueling your body with toxins that will lead to muscular stiffness, fatigue, joint pain and slow recovery rate, help it out and consume whole foods that are nutrient dense and reduce the amount of stress placed on your body.

Try out these great recovery pancakes after your next race or hard training session! They are packed with vitamins and minerals, aid in hydration and are alkaline forming!

Banana Protein Pancakes Ingredients – Makes 2 Servings

  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, rice etc.) or water
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • One scoop Tao powder
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • Optional Toppings: Banana or any fruit slices, chopped nuts, maple or agave syrup, Chai seeds

Combine all together in a blender. Place a small amount of coconut oil on the pan and pour mixture into pan.

banana and pancake stack

By: Ash Thomas

Bachelor of Physical and Health Education
Currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics

You can follow Ash on twitter and on trizone for more nutritional facts


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