Do you know what exactly happens in your body after an intense training session or game? Physiologically speaking, it’s pretty phenomenal.
An intense exercise which involves widespread muscle recruitment cues the body to divert as much energy as possible to your muscles. That means that your heart beats faster to pump more blood around your body, your digestion slows down to free up more energy for muscles, and you breathe faster and faster to take in more oxygen to keep muscles from exhausting.
To fuel your play, cells must get energy from glucose already in your body. First, your body pulls as much sugar out of your blood as possible; then it looks to the liver for more sugar; then it pulls sugar right out of your muscles. We call that sugar in your muscles glycogen.
When you engage your muscles during an intense training session or sport; the fibers which make them up incur microscopic tears. Waste byproducts build up, like lactic acid, and lower the pH level of your blood . To recover, your body immediately sets about addressing inflammation and muscular injury and repair. It sends special satellite proteins that get to work reestablishing intramuscular blood flow so that adequate oxygen can be delivered and fusing muscle fibers together to form new strands of muscle protein (a.k.a. making your stronger).
Researchers have found the recovery dynamics are dictated by myriad factors including nutrition– the type and quality of food as well as the time of ingestion.
Don’t miss this quick guide for vegan athletes about optimizing your post-workout nutrition:
How Many Proteins and Carbs Should I Eat?
What happens in your body during exercise directly influences the carbohydrate to protein ratio of food you should consume. You may have read a variety of macronutrient ratio combos recommended after training or playing a game – 2:1, 3:1, 4:1 – so which is it and what does research say?
Because of the glycogen depletion, refueling with high-glycemic simple carbohydrates that will quickly get absorbed into the bloodstream and deliver sugary fuel to your muscles is a must. Adding in a smaller amount of protein will simultaneously equip your reparative cells with the tools they need to go about helping your muscles recover.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition cites data published in the Journal of Applied Physiology; it states an approximate 3:1 ratio (carbs to protein) has been shown to stimulate optimal glycogen re-synthesis .
What is the Optimal Time for Refueling After a Training Session or Game?
Because your body depletes its glycogen stores during high volume exercises, you want to replenish those levels as fast as possible. Post-exercise ingestion of carbohydrates and protein is recommended within the first hour or two. In fact, research shows that because your body needs insulin to transport glucose into cells and muscle is more sensitive to insulin right after intense exercise, consuming high-glycemic high-carbohydrate foods within 30 minutes (and then every 2 hours for 4 to 6 hours) immediately following exercise is ideal for glycogen re-synthesis .
Research also shows that consuming high-quality protein sources within 2 hours of intense exercise delivers the amino acids your body needs to enhance the rate of muscle protein synthesis (muscle recovery). Not only can this mitigate delayed onset muscle soreness but it can also enhance muscle recovery, stimulate new muscle growth, and decrease muscle protein breakdown.
Additionally, waiting for even as little as 2 hours after your training session to refuel can reduce your body’s glycogen and muscle protein resynthesis by almost 50%.
Easy Protein/Carb Snack Ideas for Vegan Athletes
If you are having trouble finding the right combination of proteins and carbs for your post-workout snacks, check out this quick essential list of ideas:
- Protein bites
- Fresh fruit (berries, bananas, mango, pineapple, etc.)
- Dried fruit and a glass of vegan milk
- Carrots with hummus and roasted crispy chickpeas
- Roasted/baked potato or sweet potato
- Vegan pancake or french toast with maple syrup and fresh fruit
- Plant-Strong Protein shake with soy/nut milk
- Whole nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
- Oatmeal with vegan milk, dried fruit, and seeds
- Seeds (chia seeds, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.)
- Brown rice cakes with nut butter
- Cooked quinoa with avocado, edamame, and veggies
- Peanut butter and honey on whole grain toast
- Fruit smoothie with soy yogurt and nut/soy milk
- Lentil or black bean burger on whole grain bun
- Jackfruit “chicken” salad sandwich
- Broccoli salad with brown rice and tofu
The recovery period following training or a game plays an essential role in your overall athletic performance. So, not only can improving your recovery rate lead to progressively higher training volumes but it can also lower your risk of potentially overtraining too.
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