Optimal Recovery After Exercise

People get better results and reach their goals quicker when they learn how to take care of their bodies in a sound, smart manner. Nutrition is a key component of a complete wellness program. Nutrient timing in particular has been the subject of much discussion and research, especially over the past few years. This article looks at how the proper approach to nutrition by the clock can boost recovery and performance.

It is essential to look at how exercise effects the body, to better understand nutrition’s role in recovery. Physiological changes occur in proportion to exercise intensity and duration. Insulin levels decrease in the blood and levels of stress hormones increase. Carbohydrate stored in muscles as glycogen gets depleted and muscle fibers break down. Cell integrity is destroyed! Glycogen levels in the liver also drop. In general, there is a decrease in macronutrient availability and in hydration levels. This places the body in a catabolic or breakdown state.

The noticeable effects of these physiological changes includes increased and prolonged muscle soreness, low energy and extended fatigue. Remedies include nutrition and rest. This is where a post exercise meal can make a huge difference. Its focus is to convert the body from a catabolic state to an anabolic or buildup state. This is achieved by getting the correct nutrients in the right ratios at the appropriate time.

Certain physiological changes need to occur as a result of the post-exercise meal. These changes include a rise in blood insulin levels. Insulin is an anabolic hormone. It has the ability to transmute “breakdown” to “buildup”. Insulin directly lowers cortisol and increases carbohydrate storage, thereby restoring muscle and liver glycogen levels. It also slows muscle breakdown. The post-exercise meal has the potential to maximize energy regeneration; therefore it should be planned as one of the primary meals for the day.

The post-exercise meal provides energy and replenishment. It ignites muscle glycogen and helps repair and protect muscle. Muscle glycogen is important for both endurance and strength training. In fact, glycogen stores can be depleted twice as rapidly during resistance training as they can during an endurance or prolonged exercise event. Maintaining consistent glycogen levels over time increases the body’s ability to generate or maintain muscle tissue. Exercise adaptations may be easier with adequate glycogen stores, which may allow you to make consistent progress in your training.

The effectiveness of glycogen storage replenishment after a workout relies on the timing of the post-exercise meal. Body composition improves, lean mass increases and fat mass decreases, when the correct blend of calories is ingested immediately after exercise.

Recent clinical trials have provided the optimal timing on what to eat and when to eat it. Research has found that the best time to ingest a post-exercise meal for optimal anabolic effect is within 30-45 minutes after exercise. This time period, when the body is most ready for recovery, is called the metabolic window. Ingesting the post-exercise meal within this window can lead to exercise recovery in 4 to 10 hours. Beyond the 45 minutes, the potential anabolic effects of post-exercise meal steadily declines until, at 2 hours, there is much less of an effect. This decline is due to the prolonged presence of the catabolic state of the body.

For individuals who exercise several times a week, optimizing the effect is critical for ensuring appropriate recovery for the shortest time possible. Also, individuals  who experience appetite suppression might think about liquid nutrition or food supplement.

Research on post-exercise meal optimization for endurance training historically focused on carbohydrates for energy replenishment. When it came to strength training, research focused on protein. In the past few years research has honed in on what is needed for individuals who perform both endurance and resistance training exercise. For most people, both carbohydrates and protein are required in an optimal post-exercise meal.

Carbohydrate ingestion immediately following exercise increases glycogen storage almost twofold compared with carbohydrate ingestion 2 hours following exercise. A realistic carbohydrate intake is 1.5 to 2.0 grams per kilogram (0.70 to 1.0 gram per pound) of body weight. To calculate the grams of carbohydrate required, divide body weight in pounds by 2.2 and multiply the resulting number by either 0.5 or 1.0, depending upon the desired target carbohydrate intake for your goals.

The type of carbohydrate is also important. Studies have demonstrated that for best recovery, both rapid and slowly digested carbohydrates should be used after exercise. Rapidly digested carbohydrates, such as simple sugars (glucose and sucrose) provide an almost immediate large increase in blood glucose levels, which prompts insulin secretion and raises blood insulin levels. Slowly digesting carbohydrates provides a lower but more prolonged increase in blood glucose levels for a full recovery. Food sources that contain slowly digested or low-glycemic index carbohydrates are fresh fruit, carrots and steel cut oats. The effects of simple sugars declines within 1 hour after exercise, but the effects of slowly digested carbohydrates can last up to 2-3 hours.

Next month I will address the research and recommendations of protein in a post-exercise meal.

Resources: IDEA Fitness Journal

 

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