Post-exercise recovery for any sport is important and plays a critical factor in not just recovery but in how well an athlete performs. For aquatic athletes specifically, what is the quality, quantity and timing for intake of fluids and food after workouts or during a competitive event; to take advantage of re-hydration and repair? There are two areas to focus on, restoring body losses and maximizing adaptive response to increase performance.
Restoring body losses
According to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, “effective recovery occurs only when nutrients are supplied, and an early supply of nutrients may also be valuable in situations where the period immediately after exercise provides a enhanced stimulus for recovery.” It is also important to note that the timing of refueling is important and optimally should occur in the first one to two hours after exercise. Below is a guideline for post exercise refueling.
Guidelines for post exercise carbohydrate refueling
- Begin consuming carbohydrates soon after exercise with a recovery snack or meal providing one gram of carbs per body weight.
- Continue adding snacks/meals by targeting one gram of carbs per hour for the first four hours of recovery, then resume an overall fuel and energy nutrition plan
- Good carb choices are oatmeal, whole grain cereals, rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, fruits, potatoes, beans and lentils
Benefits of good carbohydrate planning
- Maximizes muscle fuel for next workout or event
- Availability of fuel when total fuel needs are high, like high volume training
- Eating after a race or training session when the next session is within eight hours or less
Maximizing adaptive response to increase performance
Muscle protein synthesis plays a critical role in our ability to adapt and recover from exercise so it is important to provide our bodies with the correct amount of fuel and protein to assist in rebuilding muscle tissue. The following is a guide to post exercise protein synthesis.
Guideline for post exercise protein refueling
- Consume 20-25 grams of high-quality protein soon after exercise
- Include a protein-rich snack or meal before bed to allow protein synthesis to remain optimized overnight
- Good protein choices are; soy milk, tofu, tempeh, protein powder, lean meats like fish or chicken, or a good quality protein bar
- Plan to consume 20-25 grams of protein every 3-5 hours
Benefits of good protein planning
- Maximizes muscle adaptation to exercise and training
- Promotes muscle repair following exercise
- When gains in muscle size are a priority
Keep in mind recovery after any exercise involves many processes in the body and how we refuel afterward is important. Recovery can’t occur until nutrients are supplied and at the rate our bodies need them. Just as you make a plan for your training program; you should also make a nutrition plan that works for you individual level of activity and recovery needs.