Sorry I forgot to do this last week. I know a lot of people at CFBIG, but I haven’t met everyone yet, so I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Alex, a registered dietitian and member of CFB for a little over 2 years. You can read a way longer sspiel about about me here or we can just chat in class. I’ll be writing nutrition blogs for CFB every Wednesday, and I hope to meet everyone in person soon. And on to recovery!
Recovery is one of the most important things an athlete can do, and nutrition is a big part of that. With the competition style Summer Throw Down series coming up, a lot of us are probably going to need to pay attention to our recovery. So I’m going to talk a little bit about how you can eat right BEFORE workouts to increase performance and feel awesome, as well as how to eat AFTER the WOD so you recovery properly.
Before the WOD…
Before a workout your body should have a topped off fuel tank. This means you should have enough glycogen (the body’s stored form of carbohydrate) stored as well as some more carbohydrates readily available from food. In general, pre workout meals or snacks should be:
- Enough energy to prepare you for the workout without leaving you hungry or with undigested food in your stomach
- Low in fiber and fat
- Higher in carbohydrates
- Moderate in protein
Meals low in fat and fiber will allow your stomach to empty in time so you can avoid stomach discomfort (because trust me, Fran on a belly full of bacon is bad news bears). The carbohydrates will top off glycogen stores, maintain blood sugar levels, and provide energy. Protein will help you avoid hunger.
It is also important to be hydrated before exercise (especially now that it feels like an oven outside). The recommendation is that athletes drink 2-3 milliliters of water per pound of body weight at least 4 hours before working out to hydrate and get rid of any excess fluid (Rodriguez et al 2009). This means a 140 pound athlete should be drinking 280 – 420 milliliters of water, or about 1-2 8 ounce glasses, or one standard 16.9 ounce water bottle (the smaller one typically found in your average convenience store fridge).
How much you need to eat depends on what time of day you workout and the volume and intensity of that day’s training. If you’re a regular 6 am attendee, you don’t necessarily need a big breakfast beforehand, but it is important to eat something. A snack with at least 30-60 grams of carbohydrate and 10-15 grams of protein with little fat and fiber should be sufficient. Try packing something convenient the night before so you can avoid missing your snack if you wake up too late (trust me, this is bad news). Good ideas include fruit, like an apple, peach, or banana paired with lean protein such as deli meat or jerky, or nuts and dried fruit. You can also pack a few ounces of meat leftover from dinner.
If your workout is later in the day (like, the Throw down) you have time to eat a little more. If you are exercising within 2-3 hours of a meal then that meal should be sufficient so long as it provides adequate carbohydrates and protein. If 4 hours or more pass between a meal and a workout, add in a snack 1-2 hours beforehand so you will have enough energy and avoid being hungry. In general, carbohydrate intake should be higher surrounding workouts and lower throughout the rest of the day, unless your goal is weight/mass gain.
The key to remember is that finding a pre workout meal/snack that works for you is trial and error: experiment with a few things and stick with the ones that work. A meal that “works” will be convenient, provide enough energy to keep you going, and leave you free of cramping or stomach pain.
After the WOD…
Post Workout/Recovery is when your body reaps the benefits of all the hard work you’ve done. During the workout your body burns through your stored glycogen, you lose fluid to sweating, and muscle tissue is broken down. During recovery, you can replenish your stored glycogen, replace lost fluid, and rebuild damaged muscles.
Within one hour of a workout you should aim to have 30-60 grams of carbohydrate and15-20 grams of protein, and then repeat this every two hours for 4-6 hours (Rodriguez et al). So if you workout at 6 am, this could be met by eating a banana and some almonds on the way home, eggs with a fruit or veggie for breakfast, and a good lunch. Try to eat something that not only provides these nutrients but also provides vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that chocolate milk may be a good recovery option because the milk provides calcium and magnesium, two minerals important in muscle contractions, and potassium, which is an important electrolyte lost in sweat. (If you’re paleo, you can find comparable amounts of potassium in bananas and potatoes, magnesium in raisins and almonds, and calcium in Kale and Bok choy). So while a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel from Dunkin Donuts will provide the carbohydrates and protein you need, it provides little nutritional value in terms of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. Other snack options are fruit smoothie with yogurt or milk or jerky and fruit. If you plan on eating a meal within an hour of working out, this can serve as your recover snack. For example, BBQ from Soul Fire after a CrossFit Boston Summer Throw down WOD.
To Wrap Up
Eating good foods in the right amounts at the right time is important and can help you perform better. So, the key things to remember are:
- Eat enough before workouts so you have energy to crush them
- Recover smart after the workout, so you will be ready and healthy to crush the next one
- Choose whole, non processed foods as much as possible to give your body the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs