First things first: Why is protein important for recovery for endurance athletes?
Even with adequate carbohydrate consumption, endurance training can create a catabolic state for the muscles if protein intake is not adequate. Consuming protein along with your carbohydrates during and following long endurance training or events (especially anything >3 hrs training and racing wise) can improve overall protein balance leading to enhanced overall recovery and decreased risk of injury.
Protein helps to combat muscle damage to reduce soreness and prevent injury.
A snack or meal containing both carbohydrate + protein following exercise can reduce markers of muscle damage and muscle soreness common with strenuous training sessions. As I mentioned, the harder you train, the more potential you create for muscle damage and the more important it is that you consume a mix of carbohydrate + protein immediately following training sessions. Post-endurance training, aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. After strength/resistance training workouts, aim for a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate: protein.
On the "window of opportunity":
Enhanced blood flow after exercise allows for protein to stimulate muscle synthesis MORE AFTER EXERCISE than before or during exercise. Athletes who require rapid recovery from exercise should consume a source of easily digestible carbohydrates immediately after training sessions (ideally within 30 minutes). Additionally, the inclusion of protein post-workout is known to increase rates of glycogen replenishment, improve protein balance, and reduce overall muscle damage.
Below are a few of my favorite snacks/meals to eat within that 30-minute post-workout window:
Other key considerations to keep in mind:
As I mentioned, convenience and portability is often key when it comes to getting in proper post-workout fuel. Often it's easy to find carbs on the go, but what about protein? Probably my favorite go-to protein source on the run is a simple handful of nuts. Not only are you getting amino acids, but additional nutrients and healthy fats too. I always have a trail mix baggie in my gym bag, swim bag or lunch bag (I carry a lot of bags!) to grab and consume whenever I need.
Infographic courtesy of Nuts.com. For additional snacking ideas, be sure to check out their high protein (http://bit.ly/24fdAQ4) and heathy snack (http://bit.ly/1WNN1xy) pages!
I've teamed up with Nuts.com to join in a conversation about healthy snacking. Post-workout nutrition is important, so I've decided to share my own thoughts and opinions on the topic! Feel free to share your favorite recovery snacks in the comments section below!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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