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Great Post Workout Meals to Replace Energy Stores and Enhance Recovery

One of the best things about being an endurance athlete is raiding the cupboards and refrigerator after getting home from a great workout.

Chicken Salad

— By Jessica Adam

One of the best things about being an endurance athlete is raiding the cupboards and refrigerator after getting home from a great workout.  Food will basically never taste as good or is never as well deserved as after a long ride or tough track session!  But before you dive in with reckless abandon, think about this meal as a very important part of your workout and overall training plan.  The following meal ideas will help to optimize all the hard work that is put into your training sessions so that they translate into improved performance and faster recovery.

The most important objective of your post workout meal is to replace the glycogen stores in your muscles that get depleted during aerobic activity.  Glucose gets converted into glycogen in the muscles and carbohydrates are the main source of food that breaks down to glucose in the body.  However, protein in the proper ratio to carbohydrate consumption is important.  Protein in combination with carbohydrate enhances insulin production from the pancreas and insulin aids in the synthesis and uptake of glycogen to the muscles.  But you must keep in mind that too much protein can slow down your body’s intake of fluid and electrolytes which are also critical for recovery.   Studies show that a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein is optimal for this process to work efficiently.

So, keeping all this in mind, you can have some great meals ready to consume as soon as you get home with a little forethought and effort.

How about a pasta salad with feta, quinoa and veggies?  Pasta might be a pretty obvious choice of carbohydrate but quinoa added to it delivers an excellent source of protein without being too heavy especially if you have another workout later in the day.  There is 8g of protein per cup of cooked quinoa and about 5-6g of protein in a ¼ cup of feta, so in combination with about a cup of cooked pasta and some veggies you have a meal with that golden 4:1 ratio that is easy to make and full of flavour.  Another meal idea for after an early a.m. swim for example might be granola with yoghurt and a hard -boiled egg.  This meal contains approximately 120g of carbohydrates and 30g of protein.  Or how about that evening track workout when you don’t want to have a big meal late in the day before bed?  Hummus and pita is perfect.  There is about 9g of protein in 3/4 cup of hummus and 35g of carbohydrate in a large pita round.

If the nutritional information is not listed on the food that you are planning to use in your menu, finding out nutritional information is easy on the web or you can ask to be sent a Canada’s Food Guide from the Health Canada website.  You can search almost any item of food to find out how many grams of protein and/or carbohydrate that food contains.  From there you can conjure up any number of recipe combinations that will ensure you achieve that ideal balance and start establishing your nutrition plan as an integral part of your overall training plan.