You know the feeling when your training feels great or you have a fantastic race. You hit your power numbers, your pace, or you just feel stronger. The key to hitting great training and racing days is solid recovery.
While there are many recovery methods, I am going to focus on two: post-exercise recovery nutrition and sleep, both of which are the foundation to recovery. Without these, other recovery methods will have minimal impact.
For athletes training at least five days a week, including double session days, refueling for the next workout as quickly as possible is necessary. Refueling correctly and consistently after workouts restores liver and muscle glycogen stores, replaces fluid and electrolytes lost, and promotes muscle repair. Those optimizing post-workout nutrition will perform better in their next training session, and ultimately have more high-quality sessions than athletes skipping post-workout recovery fueling.
There are two post-workout recovery fueling windows. The first is within 30 min of a long or hard session. The second is 2-3 hours post-workout.
Immediately post workout, you should start replacing fluids and electrolytes. Estimate your necessary fluid intake by taking your weight before the workout and then drink 16-24oz of fluids with electrolytes per pound of weight loss. To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrates and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of workout completion.
This can be accomplished with real food, a smoothie or pre-made recovery drinks.
2-3 hours post recovery
If you are hungry before, this it is ok to start sooner, but don’t delay past 3 hours. Continue your recovery nutrition by eating a meal containing whole foods that combines carbohydrates, approximately 20g of protein and some fat.
Studies have shown that increased sleep duration leads to increased performance, and adversely, constant sleep deprivation has a negative impact on performance and motivation.
For adult athletes, 8-10 hours per night should be the target.
In addition to the quantity of sleep, quality is also important. Sleep quality can be enhanced by reducing noise disturbances and sleeping in a cool, dark room. A good pre-sleep routine such as a warm shower, relaxing activities like reading a book, and avoiding light exposure 30 minutes before bed. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol in the evening can also help increase both the duration and quality of sleep.
Just like the rest of your training, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Use a sleep tracking app to measure your sleep duration and quality and use it to identify factors that impact your sleep.
Take your rest and recovery seriously. Rest days are just that -rest days. Recover as intensely as you work-out.