Sports Recovery Nutrition
What should I eat after a tough training session? Or after a match? Nutrition recovery is important if you a training every day, multiple times per day and particularly if you’re playing in a tournament with a number of matches in a few days (like those of you involved in the u16 National Basketball Championships in July).
Essentially, after completing your training or match you need to replenish energy stores by consuming carbohydrate and reverse any dehydration with fluid intake. Moreover, some protein intake may be required to allow for muscle protein breakdown that may occur.
Your carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolyte stores can usually be replenished when you have a well-balanced meal. But in the case of sports tournaments or when you are training more than once a day you need to make the most of the ‘window of opportunity’ to maximise your recovery rate.
In the hour after training or a match you have a window of opportunity where your body is primed and looking to recover. If you make the most of this window you can help accelerate your recovery process.
So let’s look at the recommendations of what you should eat and drink in the hour after a match/training to help maximise your rate of recovery.
In the hour after a match look to eat 1 gram of carbohydrate per kg of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 70 kg look to eat 70 g of carbohydrate in the hour after a match.
To help promote muscle rebuilding look to intake about 15 g of a quality protein source within the hour after the match. By ensuring your carbohydrate intake is adequate in this hour you will also help minimise breakdown of muscle protein.
Look to replace 125% of the fluid you lost in your training or match but do this over a few hours rather than just the hour after (otherwise you’ll be heading to the toilet a fair bit!). You can assess how much fluid you lost by weighing yourself before and after exercise. The difference in your weight from pre to post is the amount of water you have lost. For example if you lost 0.5 kg that equates to losing 0.5 Litres of water (1 kg body weight = 1 L sweat loss).
The key electrolyte lost during exercise is sodium (salt in sweat). There are sports drinks that you can consume to help replenish sodium lost. But if you’re taking in a snack with protein and carbohydrate it’s likely you’ll be able to replenish your sodium loss this way.
So that’s the details of what you need to help you recover. But how might replenishing these sources look in practice? Well if you can (and feel up to eating) having a well-balanced meal after a match is the best way to recover. But in the case of a tournament or if you are unable to have a meal then you’ll need to consider some snacks you can take in the 1-hour window of opportunity to help maximise your nutrition recovery rate.
By reading food labels you’ll be able to work out how you might like to eat the 1 gram per kg body weight of carbohydrate, electrolytes and 15 g of protein. At this point you may ask whether a nutrition supplement could be used. We’ve addressed the use of supplements in a previous blog. But in short supplements can sometimes be pricey and you should be able to find ‘ordinary’ products in the supermarket to help you recover fast.
Here’s a couple of ideas for two key food sources you could use to help your nutrition recovery:
Flavoured mineral water
e.g. Schweppes or Coles brands. Flavoured mineral water has a lower carbohydrate content than your standard soft drinks. The concentration of carbohydrate in these drinks is 6.9% which is similar to commercial sports drinks (but a lot cheaper). Typically a carbohydrate percentage of 5-7% has been shown to help maximise rate of fluid absorption in your gut and therefore help you replenish fluid loss quicker. If you have a serve of 500 ml of flavoured mineral water this will also provide 35 g of carbohydrate to aid your recovery. One word of caution, depending on personal preference you may wish to source still flavoured mineral water.
Flavoured or plain milk
e.g. Brownes Strawberry Smash. 300 ml serve of flavoured milk will provide you with approx. 15 g of protein and 27 g of carbohydrate. In addition, flavoured/plain milk also provides a source of sodium to help replenish electrolytes.
by Dr Laurence Houghton (Sports Science)