Living an active and physical lifestyle means you need to understand the vital role that nutrition plays in sports recovery.
“Dedication to your training needs to go hand-in-hand with being equally committed to recovering from your exertions using the right nutrition techniques,” explains Maretha Vermaak, registered dietitian at Rediscover Dairy.
Take a look at the proven recovery techniques and think practically about how you can implement them into your everyday diet.
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#1. Make sure you eat enough
A significant amount of research on energy availability in active people shows that when you don’t eat enough but you exercise a lot, your body won’t have enough energy to sustain normal bodily processes.
When this happens, you’ll find that You may get sick more often, struggle to recover from your workouts and may find it harder to sustain your performance.
Include a variety of foods in your daily diet to provide sufficient energy for your level of activity. Consuming nutrient-rich foods in your diet may also have other health benefits.
An example of a nutrient rich snack is having plain yoghurt with fruit or a piece of cheese. Dairy products are not only a great source of energy but also pack a protein punch with up to 7g protein per 200ml serving of yoghurt or 40g of cheese while also providing a third of your daily calcium needs per serving.
Avoid nutrient-poor options by limiting the amount of highly processed foods and those with added sugar, salt and fat in your diet. Focus instead on fresh or minimally processed options, like fresh fruits, vegetables and milk.
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#2. Rehydrate properly
If you sweat excessively when exercising or train in the heat, you may lose more water and electrolytes such as potassium and sodium than you take in.
Depending on various factors, you can lose 0.3 L of sweat per hour or more. When this happens, you may become dehydrated, which may affect your exercise performance due to fatigue.
Vermaak advises that a good way to gauge if you are losing too much fluid during exercise is to weigh yourself before and after a training session.
“If you have lost more than 2% of your body weight, you need to focus more on your rehydration strategy.”
In general, do the following:
- Drink to thirst leading up to your session. But also drink, even if you are not thirsty.
- Drink small amounts of fluid – 150-300 ml every 15-20 minutes during your session.
If you drank enough before and during your workout, you’ll have maintained your weight. If this is the case, then you can just drink to thirst for the rest of the day.
If you lost weight and need to replace it, it’s recommended that you drink 1 to 1.5 L, which is 4 to 6 cups of fluid per kg of weight you lost.
Water is a good choice, but it may be wise to include sources that contain some electrolytes like milk or sports drinks. Hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables or even yoghurt are also very good choices.
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#3. Eat enough protein to repair your muscles
“Many people who exercise know that when you are trying to maintain or build muscle mass, you also need to eat enough protein. That’s because protein forms the building blocks of all the cells and tissues in your body, including your muscles,” says registered dietitian, Abby Courtenay.
For most active people, including a protein source at each meal should be enough to meet your needs.. Including a protein-rich meal soon after training can specifically help with muscle recovery from that session.
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In general, you want to try to eat every 3-5 hours and include about 20-25 g of protein per meal. You can get approximately 20 g protein from the following food sources:
- 600ml low fat milk or flavored milk
- 60g cheese
- 2 extra large eggs
- 50g biltong
Some research has shown that pairing carbohydrate-containing fluid and protein can enhance muscle recovery and potentially reduce muscle soreness and tiredness. So, if this is a problem you struggle with, liquid protein sources like milk or flavored milk may be a better option for you.
Download a copy of the ‘Sport nutrition and the role of dairy’ booklet from www.rediscoverdairy.co.za.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.