Your body suddenly starts working in a different way after serious exercise: this means it’s important to load up on specific foods to aid recovery and fuel muscle growth. Proteins help build and strengthen muscle and carbohydrates restore your blood sugar levels — but don’t forget liquids, for obvious reasons.
So what are the best things to eat after an intensive workout? Even nutrition experts have widely differing opinions on the subject. But in general it all boils down to roughly the same thing. Here’s a few classic post-training foods, and a couple you may have overlooked.
An all-time classic, and for good reason! Proteins and carbohydrates are the two key elements for a nourishing post-training meal; eggs (duh) just happen to be packed with protein.
Eggs are one of the few foods that contain a natural source of vitamin D (which you also get from exposure to the sun). We are also pleased to inform you that chugging raw eggs in a shake is not better for you than eating them cooked. Quite the opposite, in fact: your body absorbs protein from cooked eggs roughly twice as fast as it does that from raw ones.
A lot of bike riders eat brown rice after training, but quinoa is an even better option as it’s crammed with vitamins an other essential nutrients. Not only that, but it contains more proteins and fibres than brown rice, and it takes a lot less time to prepare than brown rice.
Not only is freshly-squeezed orange juice an excellent source of vitamin C, your body is also able to extract much more potassium (good for blood pressure and muscles) out of it than from sport drinks, for example.
Salmon isn’t only good for a serious shot of protein, it also contains considerable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which aid muscle recovery and therefore boost performance.
Steaming is the best cooking method to ensure that the least nutrients are lost during the preparation.
Another “duh” food for cyclists, but for good reason. Bananas are an excellent source of good, fast-working carbohydrates which aid recovery. They ensure that your blood-sugar levels return to normal, and help damaged muscles recover. They’re also a rich source of potassium: cramp can be caused by a lack of potassium, calcium or magnesium. Got cramp? Grab a banana.
Anti-oxidant bombs, pure and simple! Get some and keep them in the freezer at all times. Some studies claim that blueberries (bilberries are also fine) help the body to recover three times faster after an intensive training! Worth a try, we reckon.
Whole grain pita with hummus
And now for something completely different! Hummus (aka houmous) is make from chickpeas and contains both proteins and carbohydrates. The pita bread adds some carbs as well, or you can replace the pita with falafel for more protein as well as carbs.
Dried fruit and nuts
One or two handfuls of both is the ideal way to quickly recover from an intense ride or training (they contain lots of protein and carbs). Soya beans are particularly effective for (re)building muscle fibres.
We all know about bananas, but did you know that pineapple is also a post-exercise winner? This tropical fruit is a powerhouse of goodness; it has anti-inflammatory properties and can help cure bruises, sprains and swelling. It’s also jam-packed with vitamin C.
Sweet potatoes are a delicious source of carbohydrates and contain a huge range of vitamins (primarily B6, C and D), but also magnesium and potassium.
Kiwis are full of vitamin C and potassium and you don’t need to eat many to gain a healthy shot of both. They also contain high concentrations of anti-oxidants, and it’s the skin the contains the highest concentrations of vitamin C and fibre — even more than the pulp. Will the skin blend? Yes it will.
And finally, eat and drink!
Whatever you do during a heavy ride or turbo session, keep drinking. Your body burns a huge amount during heavy training so you do need a surprising amount of energy to rebuild your body’s resources.
Many say that a hit of protein in the first half hour after training goes straight into the muscle fibres — pathways which after that time are less accessible for nutrients.
Drink electrolytes (designed to replace the nutrients you lose through sweating) during and after exercise and, because the body only absorbs a limited amount of protein at a time, a large glass of milk before you go to bed can be well absorbed by your tired and weary muscle fibres. Sleep well.