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Improving rate of recovery after exercise through better diet

We’re told, “You are what you eat.”

And if you want to go faster, further, longer, or to be stronger, its likely you’re paying attention to your fuelling, as well as your rest and hydration.

Just as a racing car needs the right blend of fuel for high performance, your body will recover faster when nourished with the optimal blend of foods.

But that’s not easy. And let’s be honest, it doesn't sound like much fun either. 

Unless you’re a premier league footballer or a tech billionaire and can afford a full time chef trained to deliciously cater for your needs it is also quite the undertaking.

Thankfully there is a balance that can be struck. And ways to conveniently incorporate preparing recovery boosting foods into schedules packed with life’s demands.

How good Nutrition habits help a faster recovery after exercise:

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After intense exercise your body needs to repair and replenish itself. Good nutrition is essential. Here are six ways diet helps you recover better after a hard training session

  1. Restores Glycogen Levels. When you are training for endurance, your body relies heavily on its glycogen stores for energy. Glycogen is stored in your muscles and liver, and is broken down into glucose to provide energy during exercise. Intense exercise will deplete these glycogen stores, leaving you feeling tired and depleted. Consuming carbohydrates after exercise will help replenish glycogen levels in muscles, which in turn helps speed up recovery. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables. By replenishing your glycogen stores after exercise, you'll have the energy you need to perform at your best during your next training session.
  2. Reduces Inflammation. Intense exercise can cause inflammation in the body, leading to sore muscles and a general feeling of fatigue. Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, will help reduce inflammation in your body and promote faster recovery after exercise. 
  3. Aids Muscle Repair and Growth. Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle repair and growth. Consuming protein after exercise will help repair the tiny tears in muscle fibres caused by intense exercise. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and dairy products. By consuming protein after exercise, you'll give your body the building blocks it needs to repair and grow stronger muscles.
  4. Provides Essential Nutrients. Intense exercise will deplete the body of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals required for healthy function. Consuming a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods can help provide the body with the necessary nutrients for recovery to homeostasis. 
  5. Reduces Muscle Soreness. Muscle soreness is a common complaint among endurance athletes. Consuming foods that are rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, will help reduce muscle soreness after intense exercise. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, as well as in nuts and seeds. These healthy fats have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can reduce muscle soreness after exercise. By incorporating foods rich in omega-3s into your diet, you may experience less muscle soreness and recover more quickly from your workouts.
  6. Improves Immune Function. Intense exercise temporarily weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illness. Consuming a balanced diet that includes immune-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin C and zinc, can help support the immune system and aid recovery. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, strawberries, and kiwi, while zinc is found in lean meats, poultry, and beans. By incorporating these immune-boosting nutrients into your diet, you may be able to reduce your risk of illness and recover more quickly from your workouts.

If you want to see performance gains, your general fuelling, outside of training and competition, is an important area of focus. It will help you recover faster, and to stay fit and well prepared for the demands of the next session. Make sure to fuel your body with the right foods and enjoy the benefits of optimal recovery.

How you fuel your body directly impacts your rate of recovery

After exercise energy stores must be replenished, damaged cells repaired and nutrients restored.

By eating clean, giving your body exactly what it needs, you’re setting the best conditions for a fast & full recovery. 

Nutrient dense foods tend not to be over processed. But life is busy. Time is short. And convenience foods are, after all, very convenient! So how do you eat for a faster recovery when life is busy?

Eat Well When Time is Short: 11 tips for busy athletes

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When you have a demanding schedule filled with work, family, and training, finding time to eat well can be a challenge. Here are some strategies you can use to make healthy eating easier, even when time is short.

  1. Choose One-Pot Meals. One-pot meals are a great way to save time on cooking and clean-up. These meals involve cooking all of your ingredients in one pot or pan, making for a quick and easy meal. These meals can be prepared in advance and reheated for quick meals throughout the week. They can also be twinned with a tasty salad for additional flavour, texture and nutrients.
  2. Batch Cook. Batch cooking involves cooking large quantities of food at once and storing it in the fridge or freezer for later use. This method will probably not only save you time but also money. They’re a great option when you’re running between commitment or when life throws something up. Open the freezer, reach past your recovery cuffs, and then simply reheat.
  3. Utilise Left Overs the Next Day. Leftovers are an excellent source of quick and healthy meals. Instead of letting them go to waste, either use them creatively in new dishes or take them with you to work the next day.
  4. Build a repertoire of quick and easy recipes. And have them handy! There are plenty of quick and easy recipes out there that use a handful of ingredients, are healthy and delicious. Spend some time researching and finding some that you enjoy. Then save them somewhere handy, all together, so you can reach for them whenever time becomes short. Our method, is the note app on our phone and using the camera to capture the list of ingredients and steps. We give it a rating out of 10 and capture how long it really takes to cook. Its never the 15 minutes Jamie tells us it will be!
  5. Cook or prep for the next day the night before. If you have a busy evening schedule: (work, collect kids, feed kids, train, kids to bed, eat) it might be your only time available for food prep is late in the evening. Too close to bed time than is ideal. If this sounds familiar, then utilise this time to make tomorrow easier. This way, you can quickly assemble tomorrow’s meal, without having to spend too much time in the kitchen.
  6. Invest in time-saving kitchen tools. Investing in time-saving kitchen tools can make food prep faster and more efficient. A good food processor, a blender, a slow cooker. These tools can save you masses of time when chopping vegetables, pureeing soups, and blending sauces.
  7. Time saving ingredients. Utilise time saving ingredients. Frozen veg. Tinned tomatoes. Instant rice. Pre-made sauces. But with these time saving additions, keep an eye on the ingredients list. If there is anything you don’t recognise or the list is too long (more than 8) there is a fair chance chemical enhancements may have been added, and that the nutritional quality of your food has been impacted.
  8. Stock up on healthy snacks. Sometimes you just have to munch. By having healthy snacks on hand you will stay on track when time is short and cravings are high. Stock up on fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds, and keep them on hand for when you need a quick energy boost.
  9. Plan your meals. Planning your meals in advance can save you time and research shows make you FAR more likely to make healthy eating choices. Consider spending some time each week planning your meals and creating a shopping list. Consider doing it as part of a weekly routine – a commute, waiting for a friend, or for the kids sport to finish. This way, you can quickly assemble your meals throughout the week and identify the times in the week ahead where you’re going to be short on time.
  10. Buy Meal Kits. Meal kits are an excellent way to save time and the right kits do make healthy eating more accessible. These kits come with pre-portioned ingredients and step-by-step instructions, making it easy to prepare healthy meals in a matter of minutes. There are many companies that offer meal kit delivery services, and some even specialize in healthy, athlete-friendly meals. They are a more expensive option but if time is short they could be the answer for you?
  11. Track your food. Tracking your food intake might seem like a time burden rather than being time efficient but it can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, even when time is short. You can quickly see if you’re hitting your nutrient needs and make adjustments as needed. Its especially good to track when you’re making changes or have targets elsewhere: increasing training mileage or deciding to add strength.

Some of these might work for you. They work for other athletes. Many wont fit the demands of your particular circumstances but they might provide ideas or prompts that do. Add comments below if there are any methods, tools, tricks or hacks that help you to eat well when time is short. If you have a good, fast recipe we’ll take that too!

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How do professional athletes approach their nutrition?

  1. Pre-planning. Professional athletes often approach their nutrition with the same level of planning as their training. They will map out their daily and weekly food intake to ensure they are consuming the right nutrients to fuel their body for their sport. This may include pre and post-workout meals, snacks and supplements.
  2. Nutrient tracking. Just as athletes track their training progress, they will also track their nutrient intake. This allows them to see where they may be deficient in certain vitamins or minerals and adjust their diet accordingly. This tracking can be done manually or with the help of apps and wearable technology. 
  3. Individual plans. Just as with hydration, every athlete is different and will have different nutritional requirements. Professional athletes will work with their nutritionist to create individual plans that cater to their specific needs. These plans will be adapted as necessary based on their competition schedule, training load, and recovery needs.
  4. Timing of meals. Professional athletes will often time their meals around their training and competition schedule. They may consume a meal or snack before a workout to provide energy or afterwards to aid in recovery.
  5. Supplementation. While whole foods should be the main source of nutrients, professional athletes may also use supplements to help meet their nutritional needs. These supplements may include protein powder, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamins and minerals.
  6. Supply chain. Because of the requirements under anti-doping legislation, professional athletes are required to responsible for what is in their body. They must take extra care with what they eat and be confident of its origin. There have been high profile cases where adverse doping findings were countered by claims of contaminated foods. 

Overall, professional athletes approach their nutrition with the same level of dedication, planning and scrutiny as their training. By prioritising nutrient-dense whole foods, individualised plans, and tracking their intake, pro sports people are able to fuel their bodies for optimal performance.

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