For optimal training recovery and to naturally increase and maximise your carbohydrate stores (muscle glycogen), your goal as an athlete is to nail your post-training meal e.g. fuel replenishment. The extent of your “carbohydrate loading” in the lead up race day is actually what you do in the 60-minutes post training – this is what we call ‘nutrient timing’. Post exercise, your glycogen synthase enzyme, the enzyme which controls glycogen storage, is most active and what you eat at this time counts.
Firstly, top up your glycogen stores by consuming a serve of carbohydrates (whole food) with your post exercise meal. Some of my favourite and most nutrient dense sources of carbohydrate include banana, sweet potato, quinoa and rice. Start with ½ cup (women) – 1 cup (men) per serve.
Secondly, to truly optimise your post exercise meal, ensure it contains antioxidants from foods such as berries, kale, spinach, avocados or nuts, like almonds. Finally, make the addition of protein in the form of fish, meat, eggs or a good quality protein powder. The combination of carbohydrate, protein and antioxidant rich vegetables & fats is essential for glycogen replenishment. It will also aid in the reduction of exercise induced inflammation whilst preserving muscle tissue.
Your post training meal could be as simple as building a smoothie of:
- ½ cup mixed berries
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 serve chocolate protein powder
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- ½ tablespoon almond butter
- ½ cup almond milk
- ½ cup water
- 1 small banana
For a pre-training meal, (many athletes are surprised to hear this) but you can actually train ‘empty’. This means going for a morning run without eating following dinner the night before. If you have tried this and it works for you, then by all means continue. If you have never tried this and/or prefer to eat before training, then continue. Aim for a snack size meal to avoid digestive upset during your session and having to wake in the wee hours of the morning just to allow digestion to take place. A banana and 2 tbsp almond butter would be perfect, or a slice of this Roast Sweet Potato Frittata. You could also have this as an afternoon snack if your training falls in the afternoon/evening.
Elly is a marathon runner, Nutritionist, wannabe yogi and yes, her favourite food is kale. Elly believes that food is fuel, but above all else, that it should be enjoyed. Elly has a bachelor’s degree in Health Science, majoring in Exercise Science and Nutrition, is a member of the Nutrition Society of Australia and a certified Integrative Health Coach.