WRITTEN BY NATHALIE NIDDAM | ACADEMY OF LIONS NUTRITIONIST | TORONTO
As the Academy Community ramps up for the Cross Fit Open this Spring, the next few posts will address issues that may help you manage your training and your body as the intensity and demands increase. Athletes spend a fair amount of time focused on muscle and strength building, workouts, etc. But very often we forget about something that is every bit as important if not more so - RECOVERY.
Nutritionally, this means that you want to make sure that you provide your body with the materials it needs to repair and build muscles, tissues and ligaments as well as elements to neutralize the byproducts of heavy workouts. Without getting into supplements tight away (we will get to those in the next couple of weeks), first let’s start with some basic nutrition guidelines.
Because we are specifically addressing recovery let’s focus on post workout meals - shake or food? How soon? Fat or no fat?
Recovery shake vs food is entirely personal and for the most part depends on your tastes and level of organization. If you are organized enough to have a meal on hand of chicken or fish (beef might be a bit harder to break down but this is a personal choice) with veggies, some rice, sweet potato and some fat (nuts, avocado, etc.) on hand and this is what you enjoy then by all means go for it. If, on the other hand, you are on the run and prefer a protein shake then by all means use that - ideally it would include a good protein powder (whey or vegan depending on your preference), some greens (or a serving of a good greens powder like Amazing Grasses), some berries or half a banana and your choice of liquid. You could also throw in some nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter.
How soon you eat after your workout is also dependant on how you feel and when your last meal was. If you are crushing your WOD in a fasted state (let’s call it more than 4-5 hours after your last meal) you probably want to get that post workout meal in pretty soon after your workout - within the hour is good. If, on the other hand, you had your pre workout meal or shake and you’re feeling pretty good then you can wait a bit longer. It turns out that your body doesn’t care as much about timing as we may have once thought just as long as there is a consistent and high quality supply of nutrients.
Finally the issue of fat vs no fat in your post workout meal. In the past I have advised clients to avoid fat post workout to avoid slowing down the uptake of protein and carbs, it turns out that there is recent research that indicates that this may not be the case at all and on the contrary may be beneficial to restoring muscle glycogen levels more efficiently. In other words, your post workout meal may look a whole lot like the meal you ate pre workout. So go ahead, have a bit of fat with your recovery meal (or shake) - it will taste awesome!