Earlier I use to have a cup of tea and lots of biscuits after my run and always wondered as to why am I not losing weight and why do I feel so sluggish throughout the day. What an idiot I was! But not anymore. Now I take care what I eat and drink after my run.
Exercising is a 24 hour thing. Physically moving and exerting yourself for a limited duration is one part and recovering from it to perform again the next day with equal energy and passion is the other part. The other part is called the recovery.
When you run or workout, you use up your reserves of glycogen, a source of giving energy to muscles. Also you increase the breakdown in muscle protein while decreasing protein synthesis. And you get dehydrated and lose water and essential salts. So, the aim of a recovery drink is to –
1. Restore glycogen.
2. Increase protein synthesis.
3. Replenish fluid and essential salts.
A correctly concocted recovery drink will therefore help in better recovery, improved muscle function, increased growth of muscles, better fat burning capability, decrease in post exercise muscle soreness and reduced fatigue levels.
After seeing the purpose and benefits of a recovery drink, we now come to the question as to what is the perfect recovery drink. According to Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, to maximize glycogen synthesis athletes should consume 1.2 gms of carbohydrate per kg bodyweight immediately after exercise and each hour thereafter for 4–6 hours post exercise. Liquids provide valuable fluids for rehydration and an ideal recovery beverage should not only contain carbohydrate and protein but also contain electrolytes.
You can, alternatively, also consume 0.8 gms of carbs and 0.4 gms of protien per kg of your bodyweight i.e in a 2:1 ratio. Additionally, electrolytes like potassium, chloride, and about 0.3-0.7g of sodium per liter of fluid is required to help restore sweat losses and stimulate thirst.
Ideally, a recovery drink is to be had after a long run or an intense weight training session or an interval session. It is not required or you can do without it after an easy run or walk in the park with your dog.
To maximize glycogen synthesis, according to National Centre for Biotechnology Information, there is a period of rapid synthesis of muscle glycogen that does not require the presence of insulin and lasts about 30-60 minutes. Thereafter, muscle glycogen synthesis takes place at a much slower rate and this phase can last for several hours.
As we have seen above, a combination of carbs, protein and essential salts make a perfect drink to speed up muscle glycogen and increase muscle protein synthesis. So, here is a list of my favorite recovery drinks.
According to Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, low fat chocolate milk is found to be effective in speeding up recovery between training sessions. The ideal mix of carbohydrates and proteins found in milk is an ideal concoction. Just take a glass of skim milk and chocolate syrup or powder to have a mouth watering drink.
However, there are some views opposing the consumption of milk after heavy workout as it may stress out your digestive system. I suggest that you try it and see the effect. It may suit you like it suits me.
Coconut water is said to be better than sports drink because of its ideal combo of carbs, protein, potassium, zinc, magnesium and other essential nutrients. It is sweet and has a refreshing taste.
But it lacks in one respect as compared to sports drink. That is in sodium. Coconut water fails miserably in this aspect. So, it may be a good idea to add a pinch of sea salt and protein powder or have it with a combo of sports drink.
Sports drink nowadays are made with exact precision to meet the requirements of the calories intake and make up for the fluid and salt losses. Long distance runners, cyclists are banking on this drink because of the mix of carbs, proteins and essential salts to enhance recovery process. By the way, I am a huge fan of Gatorade(I am not promoting it).
Ah, I am a huge fan of beer. Almost after every hard workout, I treat myself with an afternoon beer but seem to feel guilty afterwards. Raise your hands if you also like to have a can of chilled goodness.
According to researches moderate amount of beer does have recovery effect as beer contains moderate amount of carbs, sugar and salts. However, as beer is a diuretic i.e it causes dehydration, it can cause delay in the recovery process. Also, beer cannot solve your rapid rehydration needs. So, by all means go ahead and have that beer but alternate with a glass of water or coconut water or a sports drink and keep the number of cans in check.
Keep the recovery process in mind if you want to take your fitness to a new level. The better you are at recovering from a hard workout, the more you effort you can place the next day and will help you stay injury free.
Till then stay fit and keep running.
What are you drinking after your hard and long sessions?