OPTIMIZE RECOVERY: NUTRITION

To excel as an athlete repeatedly showing up ‘ready’ is critical to achieve long-term success.  There are several important factors related to maintaining ‘readiness’.  Establishing a regimen focused on recovery between the rigours of a competitive lifestyle is key.  Throughout this article I will discuss effective nutritional strategies to maximize recovery.

Make choices that support recovery; be ready to repeatedly produce peak levels of performance  

Recovery is an ongoing process from the cessation of one activity to the beginning of the next.

Post-game/workout/practice: Throughout vigorous activity a substantial amount of energy stores are used to fuel exercise.  Our primary goal after activity is to replenish energy stores and provide the nutrients necessary to repair stressed tissues through activity.  immediately following any bout of activity your body is most prepared to re-fuel!

Glycogen (stored carbohydrate):  Replenishing glycogen stores between competition is vital to replicate peak performances.  Researchers have found  that hockey players can lose up to 60% in stored glycogen throughout a typical (intercollegiate) hockey game.  It is important to establish the most effective and efficient way to restore glycogen levels.  Recognize the 0-30 minute window post-activity is the opportune time to kickstart the process of recovery.  Throughout this time period your body is more sensitive to the hormones responsible for glucose (carbohydrate in blood) uptake.  Include a combination of carbohydrates and protein post-exercise, as a general rule a 3:1 (C:P) ratio, in shake form is effective.

water

Hydration:  Consume 0.6-0.7oz of water for every pound of total bodyweight.  For example a person who weighs 200lbs should be consuming (0.6oz x 200 = 120oz) of water each day.  120 ounces is equivalent to (120oz/33oz) 3.6 litres.  Researchers have demonstrated significant losses in power output as a result of dehydration. (19.20% loss in power output).  If  you plan to show up to your next game ready to go, understand the necessary steps to re-hydrate.  It is important to understand that glycogen is stored with water.  Therefore, including carbohydrates in your post game shake will optimize your ability to re-hydrate.  As a rule of thumb consume 500-750ml of water for every pound of bodyweight lost after exercise. Remember* One standard water bottle is 500ml, so two bottles is equivalent to 1 litre

Recovery days:  During recovery focus on activities that are low intensity and relaxing in nature.  This may include activities like self myofascial release (foam rolling), mobility and yoga (yin in nature, non-heated is best).  Nutrition is equally important on recovery days, focus on quality food choices,  while reaching sufficient caloric intake from carbohydrates, fat and protein.  Here are some general nutritional guidelines:

Focus on ‘real’ food: It is important to understand that protein, carbohydrate and fat requirements are specific to the individual.  In order to obtain sufficient nutrition you must focus primarily on food, avoid excessive supplementation.  The protein you will find in supplement form is effective in serving its purpose as a supplement.  If you want to achieve optimal recovery the majority of your nutrients should be coming from food! … Obvious right?

Avoid sugary high calorie drinks, hydrate with water.  Various types of sport drinks include a large quantity of sugar, these drinks can be effective post activity but should be avoided as casual daily drink.

Pre-game:  By the time game day arrives the majority of recovery should already have taken place.  We often see an over emphasis on pre-game meals.  Don’t get me wrong, adequate nutrition on game day including your pre-game meal is critical, but only one piece of the puzzle.  If you neglect to focus on recovery as a whole even the best of  pre-game meals will not fix the bigger issue.  Experimenting with different quality food choices while paying attention to your energy throughout games and practices is critical.  We want to maximize energy and avoid foods that may cause any sort of irritation.  Despite the fact that even the best pre-game meal will not ‘fix’ a poor recovery plan, a poor pre-game meal may hinder performance.  Here are some simple guidelines regarding pre-game meals:

  • Consumed 2-4 hours pre-game
  • The food that you eat pre-game is not going to directly fuel the game, you have to prepare yourself and replenish energy stores throughout the entire recovery period
  • Eat foods that ‘agree’ with you
  • 400-600ml of fluid 2-3 hours prior, 150-350ml of fluid 15 minutes before

Pre-game guidelines:

veggies

  1. Carbohydrate source – Some people may find that more traditional carbohydrate sources like pasta and bread result in a ‘heavy’ or ‘slow’ feeling throughout a game or training session, while for others these choices may be OK.  We suggest experimenting with a variety of carbohydrate sources including foods like quinoa, rice and sweet potatoes as players will often find these foods satisfying and effective.
  2. Vegetables – The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and carbohydrates derived from vegetables are all critical components in every healthy diet.  As an athlete the body uses more nutrients to fuel their lifestyle and with limited vegetables your ability to recovery and perform will be sacrificed.  Remember, health and performance are not mutually exclusive, a healthy athlete is always ready to perform.
  3. Animal source of protein – Stick to leaner sources including foods like chicken, turkey and fish.

KEY POINTS

  • Recovery is an ongoing process between activity
  • The timing of nutrients plays a critical roll in recovery
  • The food you consume and your ability to re-hydrate are closely connected
  • Nutrition is one of many key components related to recovery

 

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