We all have those days when we smash long distance events and really see how well we can perform when it counts. To be on it like this we do need to align the stars and not rely on random acts to make it happen. Two of the biggest ticks we can all hit are Nutrition and Sleep.
If you don’t get Nutrition right, you won’t have the energy to feed the beast! If you don’t get the right amount of sleep, you won’t repair or feel fresh for the big (and long) days. It’s important because don’t these two right, anything else you do will have minimum effect on your performance and you will lose the impact of them.
Post Exercise Nutrition
For those who train and race routinely, feeding the beast, ready for the next exertion should be high on the agenda to repair and restore the body. Refuelling consistently and accurately after sessions restores muscle and liver glycogen stores and replaces fluids, electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolter the immune system. Doing all of the above will optimise post exercise recovery. It will also allow you to hit the next training session and improve on the quality of sessions and events.
There are two post-exercise recovery fuelling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is two to three hours post exercise. Easier sessions don’t need the same attention, but you should still be keeping a close eye on what goes in. All input should be good quality whole foods loaded with the right macro-nutrient balance.
The 30 Minute Post-Exercise
Fluids, electrolytes and proteins are the foundation of sound recovery nutrition. Immediately after a session, start replacing fluids and electrolyte losses with drink containing sodium or fluids and food containing sodium. A rough guide to how much fluid to take on would be to weigh yourself before and after a long or hard training session and drink 0.5-0.75 litres of fluid for every 0.5Kg lost.
To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis consume:
0.8 Grams per Kilogram of bodyweight of carbohydrate.
0.2 Grams per Kilogram of bodyweight of Protein within 30 minutes of finishing an endurance or hard session.
These can all be taken with recovery drinks, but take care that they are of a sufficient quality. Although less convenient, recovery drinks can be homemade which gives you more control of the content, quality and flavours. Adding Micro-nutrients like Vit C & A, Creatine and L-glutamine are also worthy additions to a recovery diet.
On hot training make sure you hydrate affectively throughout the session and afterwards. If you can cool down using air-conditioning or cool drinks do so, but unless you are dangerously overheating make sure your cooling effort is controlled. By cooling down, you reduce the impact of dehydration dramatically.
The Two to Three Hour Post Exercise
Eating whole foods 2-3 hours post endurance or hard sessions is recommended as part of a calculated recovery plan. If you are hungry and need to eat before this window, then do so. Listening to your body and its demands is important. Delaying more than three hours will significantly decrease the impact of any ‘recovery’ meal plan.
This meal should contain a combination of Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. Having the recommended mix of these macro-nutrients is advised. A recent study has found that eating 20g of protein four times a day has had a greater impact on protein synthesis than taking two lots of 40g or even 8 lots of 10g per day. So this is an area for due consideration when loading out on protein with supplements instead of meals.
The Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
Studies have shown the importance of sound sleep patterns to increased performance and mental wellbeing. Lack of sleep impairs performance and reduces motivation. This in one reason that the military use sleep deprivation to test individuals through selection processes. If you can be self-motivated little sleep, you can do it when you have. But here we are talking about performance and doing everything you can to be on point at the start and finish!
Improving Sleep Quality and Duration
Sleep duration and sleep quality directly affect the regenerative qualities of sleep. Therefore, sleep quality should be improved or optimised through creating sleep hygiene patterns that improve our mind set for going to bed and sleeping. The basics are to try a relaxation routine to reduce the heart rate and help the mind switch off. Stay away from stimulants like sugary drinks and caffeine late at night or if they effect you taking them at all. Alcohol also interferes with sleep quality and durations and should be avoided. TV and other electronic devices with back lights can also help keep the body awake when preparing to sleep and should be avoided. You can read more on sleep preparation on my previous blog by going to this link.
Some people can also effected with the time of day they exercise. Intense exercise late at night will lift the body’s metabolism and this can cause an issue while trying to get to sleep. For others this may not be an issue, so it is important to understand how you react to various activities in the hours preceding the start of your sleep routine.
Other Techniques to Help Recovery
Stress reduction is a key factor here. Massage for example may well be good for muscle pain relief, but if it also relaxes you and reduces overall tension through self-awareness then do it. There are any number of activities similar to this that will help reduce stress and tension through your mind and body, so do not underestimate the help they can have upon you. But one thing to keep in mind is that they these activities should not impede the first two biggies – Nutrition and Sleep!
Take R&R Seriously
If you are a professional athlete or a rank amature we all have our distractions through the day. There is an inevitability that life will get in the way. Family, Kids, Social Life will always play a part in keeping our schedules messy. The key here is to have a strategy in place to help you cope with them when they appear. If you have issues that are coming up, try to plan them into your routine. Do not squeeze either into your schedule. Unplanned events happen, that’s life, accept that it has happened and re-plan where you can. It’s that simple!
Remember, routines and schedules are useful for a reason. They give us some certainty and allow us to plan the way ahead. Stress in a fitness routine is required to improve movements and force adaptations. Therefore, having a balance is vital. In short; Eat well, have sound sleep and be happy!