Essential Ride Recovery

05 September, 2018

I’m super passionate about my post cycling and workout nutrition. Since I started road cycling, I’ve seen and felt the dramatic difference refueling properly can make to how I feel and perform. Reading up on nutrition books such as ROAR by Stacey Sims and Fuel Your Ride by Molly Hurford, I noticed the advantage athletes have is the notion that their bodies are their number one asset, so they are trained to do everything possible to ensure results. The rest of the population aren’t really taught about post workout nutrition, and one of the things I frequently hear in cycling groups and from exercise buddies is a massive disconnect between their efforts and their results. They would exercise heavily, eat less, avoid carbs and yet still not see the changes they needed. They were over tired, over trained, and not getting anywhere. Inevitably, this would lead to frustration, binging, more frustration and then more exercise to counteract the madness.
So let’s talk about recovery.
A big misconception about post workout nutrition is the less you eat, the more you lose. One of the common frustrations that people have is that they tend to work hard, eat less, and yet don’t get the energy or results they’re looking for. Recovery is one of the most important aspects in getting results. You cannot train hard if you don’t recover, and you cannot build muscle if you don’t provide the building blocks you need. If you don’t refuel properly, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reap the metabolic benefits of your hard work.
Exercising breaks down muscle tissue - that’s how it becomes stronger - so in order to build strength, we need to repair and rebuild our muscles after we train. If we miss out on refueling, muscle tissue is continually broken down without the chance to repair, which means we won’t see the results we’re looking for. It can also lead to over-training, which just perpetuates the cycle. Our bodies need a good mix of protein, electrolytes and carbohydrates to recover and stay energized.
A huge stumbling block is when we avoid eating all together with the hopes that it will burn more calories. This actually has the opposite effect, and if you’re a frequent post-workout meal skipper you may also find yourself standing at the counter late at night downing 8 pieces of toast (oh the guilt….!!!). After a session, blood sugar is low, glycogen has been depleted and cortisol is raised. Inflammation kicks in to help repair muscle and the body is in a slightly acidic state. These are all normal and healthy responses to exercise - but the key is to not let that go on for too long. 

If we avoid eating, this state perpetuates and goes from being beneficial to counterproductive. Cortisol stays raised if we don’t address low blood sugar; muscles become tired and achey if inflammation continues; electrolytes and glycogen stays depleted and hormonally our body is at a bit of a loss - basically, hungry, tired, and out of whack. This can trigger a variety of things, but most noticeably is the effects on appetite. Skipping post workout meals can make you feel light and virtuous for a few hours, or even the day, but at some point it usually leads to intense carbohydrate cravings, excess snacking later in the day and feeling like your appetite is ‘out of control.’ The other big ones are fatigue and an inability to gain strength.
If you’ve just done a high intensity ride, then replacing nutrients, electrolytes and protein is essential. Adding fibre can help stave off post workout/ride hunger and keep you feeling full for longer. And even better, adding a superfood booster like spirulina or maca will help reduce cortisol, balance hormones and help make the switch from acidic to alkaline.
Tweaking your recovery meal can give the extra push needed to see results, boost energy and restore metabolic balance. Shakes are the easiest, most effective and, in my opinion, most delicious way to refuel. But healthy shakes - shakes with a purpose that aren’t going to sabotage your efforts - are hard to find. For a shake recipe packed with plant based proteins, superfood boosters, nutrients & electrolytes that will help you recover, check out the recipe below to make the perfect recovery smoothie at home.

This is one of my favorite smoothies the help recovery after a heavy workout. It's simple, tasty, and the L-Glutamine provides noticeable support for muscle recovery, energy and soreness. L glutamine is probably best known for it's use in sport, exercise and recovery, however it's also fantastic for immunity, digestion and energy. This smoothie has everything you need to nourish you muscles post ride or workout - a good dose of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, protein and L glutamine for muscular energy & repair. I also like to add a little Osmo Recovery powder  instead of vanilla protein powder just to mix it up.

1/4 cup cashews, soaked overnight
1 frozen banana
1 medjool date
1 scoop plant based vanilla protein powder
1 cup plant based milk of choice, unsweetened
5 g L-glutamine powder, optional - but great for recovery
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 or few ice cubes

1. Blend the cashews and milk of choice together until smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend again. Enjoy immediately!

 Image: FitBit

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