Post-Workout Recovery Part 2

In the last post we discussed what was most important directly after exercise. To give a brief synopsis, protein is important to repair the micro-damage that occurs to muscles. This generally takes 24-48 hours so regular portions of protein spread throughout the day should allow for optimal muscle protein synthesis. Carbohydrate is required to replace the glycogen used up during exercise. Glycogen is energy stored in the muscle that can be replaced within 4-6 hours after exercise. How quickly and effectively glycogen is replaced will depend on the amount and type of carbohydrate consumed after exercise.

Post Exercise MealsWe recommend some fast-acting carbohydrate, mixed with protein, immediately after exercise. Flavoured milk, fat-free yoghurt, chicken sandwiches or protein and fruit smoothies are usually the best options in terms of both meeting nutritional demands and being easy to prepare in advance.

Very intense and/or long sessions will use up large amounts of glycogen. Replacing this glycogen requires careful planning in terms of how much carbohydrate is consumed afterwards. How to define the intensity of a session can be difficult for many people and often leads to us consuming either too much or too little carbohydrate (or food in general). Using a combination of time and RPE can help us in deciding on our carbohydrate requirements after exercise. We generally recommend the following in terms of how to rate the intensity of a training or match.

Difficulty Factors
Light Session 45-60 Minutes Long
RPE of 6 or less
Medium Session 60-75 Minutes Long
RPE of 7-8
Hard Session 75+ Minutes Long
RPE of 8+

*RPE – Rating of Perceived Exertion

1-10 scale of how difficult a session was. 10 is the hardest session you have ever experienced. 1 is lying in bed relaxing.

The snacks mentioned above are ideal to keep in a gear-bag for directly after training but ideally we would consume a more traditional looking meal within an hour of our snack. This meal should include a serving of lean protein such as chicken, turkey, beef, tuna, cod, etc., We should avoid fats at this stage as they will slow down the absorption of nutrients. It is important to note that many accompanying sauces or gravy may contain fat so should be avoided or replaced with low-fat options in the post-exercise meal. Choosing the amount of carbohydrate to be consumed is key at this meal. The length or difficulty of the session will guide the serving of carbohydrate. A light session usually requires a small serving of carbohydrate. A medium session requires a moderate serving of carbohydrate. A hard session requires a large session of carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates, such as rice, potatoes, quinoa, cous-cous or pasta, are best here and should be adapted to suit your own preferences.

Using a variety of vegetables to fill your plate (and stomach) will help you feel full and satiated after lighter sessions. Adjusting the amount of vegetable consumed should be dependent on the intensity of the session and the amount of carbohydrate consumed. If you have just completed a long and intense session, and require a lot of carbohydrate to recover then extra vegetables will take up a lot of space in your stomach. The fibre will also slow down digestion when fast absorption to replace glycogen is more important. Larger portions of vegetables after lighter sessions will not have the same impact on digestion as there is not as much glycogen to be replenished.

We will post in more detail about portion sizes in the coming weeks but following the guidelines in the above infographic should help everyone choose the appropriate amount. People who are more active in general will require a larger portion of carbohydrate and so should use 1 portion above what was recommended based on the intensity of their session. These guidelines can also be used to build an adequate meal at lunchtime earlier in the day especially if there is good communication between coaches and players prior to training.

If using this as a guideline for post-training meals with large groups then self-selection of portions is very important. Keeping protein, carbohydrate and vegetable options separate is recommended as players can choose their own portion sizes. One dish containing meatballs, one containing pasta and another containing vegetable options allows players to build their own plate based on what type of training they just had or based on their own body composition goals. A player just returning from injury who is not up to completing full sessions may require less food than another participating fully will require less food. Allowing him to adjust portion sizes (especially carbohydrate amounts) will help prevent excess weight gain and can help in returning to full fitness sooner.

Feel free to provide feedback on the above piece. If you would like more information on post-workout recovery or nutrition in general then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

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Post-Session/Game Recovery (Part 1)

The post-workout window or ‘Window of Gainz’ is often spoken of among gym-goers. Most feel that they must consume a portion of protein (generally a double serving of whey) within 20 minutes of completing their gym session. However, it’s rare to see people act the same after a training session or game even though it may have been of much higher intensity and used up a considerably larger amount of energy (calories).

Recovery Shakes

There are two main types of physical recovery required within the muscle after intense exercise. When we perform resistance exercise (weight training, etc,) it causes a number of tiny tears in the muscle. These heal over the course of 24-48 hours. Each time they heal, they grow a little stronger. This is why we get progressively stronger over time from lifting weights, provided there is adequate recovery time between sessions. Protein is the main macronutrient required for repairing these tiny tears and most feel it is necessary to consume protein immediately after exercise. Due to a number of studies by Brad Schoenfoeld, Stu Phillips, Kevin Tipton and countless others, we now know that protein should be evenly spaced out across the day as it takes so long to be fully digested and used by the muscles. I will go into more detail on daily protein needs, timing and sources in the future but for now, we just need to know that protein immediately after exercise is not a necessity for exercise however, we most likely have gone 3-4 hours since previously eating so are most likely due a portion of protein anyway.

The other type of recovery required involves replacing the energy stored within the muscle, known as glycogen. Glycogen is supplied to our muscles from digested carbohydrates. Glycogen can be topped up relatively quickly, especially in comparison to protein, so consuming carbohydrate immediately after exercise becomes of much greater importance than consuming protein.

The type of carbohydrate has a significant impact on how quickly it is absorbed by muscles. Wholegrain carbohydrate sources, which are typically higher in fibre, will be released to working muscles much slower than other sources that are typically higher in sugar. This high-fibre, wholegrain sources are ideal for fuelling general day-to-day activities and slowly releasing energy throughout the day, but will not quickly replace lost glycogen stores after intense exercise.

Fast-acting carbs are the best way of replacing glycogen after intense exercise. These generally come from carbohydrates that are higher in sugar and lower in fibre, although fruits are a good option despite the presence of fibre. Convenience is also a key factor when picking carbohydrates for directly after exercise. Freshness and taste in the dressing-room, directly after a game or training session must be taken into account when picking foods for immediate recovery. While a fat-free, fruit-flavoured yoghurt may provide the right blend of nutrients after a game, it can be difficult to eat if you’ve forgotten your spoon or it’s covered in dirt from a mucky pitch.

Recovery Options:

  • Flavoured milks are excellent sources of post-exercise nutrition as they combine a blend of high-quality protein with fast-acting carbohydrates in an easy to carry container.
  • Many supplement companies now produce recovery blends of carbohydrate and protein mixed together in one formula.
  • Fruit (bananas, apples, berries, etc.,) with yoghurt drinks (Yop).
  • Smoothie Blends (see above)

Smoothies are a tasty and nutritious way to meet the requirements of post-workout recovery. Athletes can combine a number of different flavours to meet their own preferences. My own particular favourite is to mix frozen raspberries, vanilla protein, water, ice and spinach. Mixing spinach and raspberries turn the smoothie brown but still taste unbelievable!!

The amount of carbohydrate consumed after exercise is dependent on the intensity and duration of exercise, timing of the next bout of exercise and the size of the athlete. I will go into further details on how to adjust the portions of recovery snacks along with how to construct full meals for after exercise in the next week or so.

If you have any questions on post-exercise recovery or would like anything else addressed then feel free to contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

In-Season Week of Eating

Following on from last week’s piece, I have put together a suggested week of eating for the middle of championship or a run of competitive games. This particular week is again based around a 7pm Saturday evening game. Feel free to adapt the foods, timings etc., for your own game at whatever time it’s on.

Full Week

The 24-48 hours leading into a game are mainly about loading up on carbohydrates to fuel the high intensity actions that are about to take place. What about the rest of the week or the days leading into the weekend?

Generally, training before a big game will be tapered down in terms of both intensity and volume. We might include some particularly intense actions to keep players ‘sharp’ but these will be short in duration and nowhere near the number expected in a game. We don’t require the same amount of fuel for these training sessions, or for the days we are not training. Gym sessions, which are ideally included throughout the entire season and adapted based on the playing schedule, will also decrease in intensity/volume as we near competitive games. This requires us to change our fuelling strategies to match the amount of work being done.

Overall energy intake (calories) should be adjusted based on how active we are each day. This doesn’t need to be calculated through a complex mathematical formula while carrying a weighing scales, as there are some simple strategies for adjusting based on the type and time of activity we are undertaking. Each of the three macronutrients play an important role in fuelling our bodies each day through a variety of different means. As carbohydrate is the key fuel for intense exercise, it becomes our main area for adjustment based on activity levels. Protein levels generally remain constant, regardless of activity levels, while fat is usually reduced around high intensity exercise (especially in the 3-4 hours beforehand).

The days we do no training at all, but are still somewhat active through general day-to-day activities, will not require as much overall energy intake (calories). As these days are low in high-intensity exercise, reducing carbohydrate is the simplest way of adjusting what we eat. There is no need to completely cut out carbohydrate (as it would be very difficult and impractical anyway) but reducing portions is a simple and effective way of tailoring fuel intake to meet energy demands. Increasing fat intake, slightly, is another option on low-activity days as fat is the primary fuel source for low-intensity activity.

Adjusting the intake of food types throughout the week is also a practical way of working towards body composition goals while still fuelling adequately for important games. Players that need to decrease body-fat, or lose weight in general, can eat just below (200-300 calories) the required amount of fuel for a given day in the early stages of a week then top up on carbohydrates towards the end. Ensuring they stay within calorie balance on the days leading into a game should finish each week in a calorie deficit of 600-900 calories. While weight/fat loss will be slow at this rate, it still allows players to perform at a high level while decreasing the chances of complications associated with chronic under-fuelling.

Above you can find a suggested week of eating that leads into a Saturday evening game. There is training on Tuesday and Thursday. A light gym session is suggested on either Monday or Wednesday (players own preference) with complete rest on Friday. The days are colour-coded based on carbohydrate intake. Green for high, orange for medium and red for low. Each day has 6 meal suggestions. This will generally be too many for most people so I suggest leaving out whichever option you prefer. There is plenty of room for adjustment in terms of the foods eaten. The recommended amounts will also require adjusting depending on size and activity levels of each individual.

 

If you would like any more information on this or have topics you would like covered in the future, contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com.

A Guide to Pre-Game Eating

Before we go into any details, it must be stated that eating terribly in the weeks, months and even years before a game will not be counteracted by the perfect pre-game meal. For those of us who have got our nutrition nailed down during the week, are at an appropriate body-fat level and have fitness levels that are ready for performance, then what should we eat to maximise our performance?

3-4 Hours Previous

Ideally, we’d start preparing 24-36 hours out from a game. A club GAA player can expect to cover between 6-8km in a game of hurling and 7-10km in a game of football (position dependent). A lot of that distance is covered via high-intensity running and includes a number of short sprints, accelerations, jumps and tackles. These have a high energy cost on the body and require us to properly fuel up in advance.

Low-carb, high-fat diets (such as keto style) have increased in popularity recently as they have shown some positive benefits in both health and sporting situations. Intermittent field sports, such as Soccer, Rugby and GAA are not suited to a low-carbohydrate diet especially in the lead-up to a game. Gaelic Footballers have been shown to burn up to 1,200 calories in games of, particularly high-intensities. Replacing that much energy during game-time is neither practical nor useful (due to how long it can take energy to be absorbed by the body).

1-2 Hours Previous

Guidelines around Australian Rules and Soccer recommend up to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight to be eaten in the 24 hours leading up to a competitive game. For an 80kg player that could mean consuming over 500g of carbohydrate. This is purely for competitive games and players at the higher end of calorie expenditure (particularly energetic midfielders and halfbacks/forwards). All other players can scale back from this amount depending on how much energy they generally expend during a game.

To try and consume this much in the pre-game meal would be both uncomfortable at the time of eating and during the game itself. Planning how best to eat all of this carbohydrate well in advance is key to properly fuelling for a game.

To use the example of a 7pm, Saturday evening game, we recommend beginning the carbohydrate load at Friday lunchtime. Adding an extra serving of carbohydrate to your normal lunch as well as your normal meals in the lead up to the game is generally the easiest way to meet guidelines (see the suggested eating plan at the end of this piece). On the day before the game, we still recommend keeping your sugar content relatively low and encourage the intake of carbohydrates that are higher in fibre and are derived from wholegrain sources. Potatoes, rice, brown bread and porridge oats will generally be your best options.

As game time draws closer then you can add in some options that are higher in sugar. Avoiding foods high in fat, and in fibre, are key to absorbing the ‘fast-acting’ carbohydrates that will help provide the final top-up of fuels for performance. Both fats and fibre will slow down digestion so minimising their consumption will aid in how much you can utilise the carbohydrate you are eating. ‘Fast-acting’ carbohydrates will be absorbed by the body much faster than traditional high-fibre, wholegrain sources and are generally higher in sugar. Toast with jam, breakfast cereals, fat-free fruity yoghurts, jaffa cakes, fig rolls and isotonic drinks are some of the more popular ways to ‘top-up’ with energy as you reach the final hours and minutes of preparation.

Protein consumption has not been addressed in this as we recommend 4-6 even portions of protein to be evenly spaced throughout each day regardless of activity levels. Having your final portion of protein about 2-3 hours before a game will generally be enough time not to cause discomfort when playing. Foods high in carbohydrate and moderate protein is ideal for recovery after the game. Chocolate milk and a banana immediately after the game followed by a traditional meat and potatoes/rice meal an hour or so later will help to replenish glycogen stores as quickly as possible.

Meal options for 3-4 hours before a game and snack options for 1-2 hours before a game are provided above as well as food options for the 24-36 hours before competition. Adjust these based on when your own game is and how much energy you tend to expend during a typical game.

36 Hours PreviousIf you have any questions on how to best prepare for a game nutritionally or want references for any of the information provided above then contact me at fhsperformance@gmail.com

Make Each Day Count

daily-recovery

Last year I posted about a number of recovery strategies, which can be found here.

Earlier this week we talked about a Weekly Recovery Plan. We now move onto strategies that should be included each day. Whether you are training hard or not, these strategies should be employed to recover from daily life, work, stressful situations or simply to help you feel more productive each day.

The Daily Recovery Plan requires you to hit at least 50 points each day while extra points will provide added benefits.

There is no special equipment or facilities required yet you do need to be mindful of setting/reaching daily targets in many of them.

Enjoy Great Sleep

I’m often asked about pre-workout and what’s best for giving you a ‘push’ before training but ideally you wouldn’t require anything if you got enough sleep. The emphasis should also be on quality sleep. Lying in bed, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram does not count as quality sleep and staring at the blue screen will detract from the quality of sleep you do get.

 

phone-in-bed
Laying in bed staring at your phone is taking away from your best possible sleep and the next day’s productivity

 

Setting a routine that helps you wind down from the day is key to making the most of your sleep. Putting the phone on flight mode, setting work aside in advance of bedtime, avoiding caffeine in the evening are all helpful in establishing a routine. I personally enjoy ZMA tablets about half an hour before bed and I know many more who sip a cup of chamomile tea or do some light stretching to help wind down.

It’s most important to establish a routine that suits you and helps maximise your own sleep.

Quality Nutrition

I won’t go into too much detail here, as there have been countless articles and books written on how best to approach eating for performance, recovery and health. I have posted in the past about getting the right amount of calories here and macronutrients here that will go a long way in helping recovery. If you wish to go into further detail then contact me via email for an in-depth consultation.

Finding simple recipes that you enjoy preparing and eating will help get the nutrients you require while still having a healthy and positive relationship with food.

Click on the link for examples of Piri-Piri & Lime Chicken and Beef Chilli.

 

Plan some “YOU” Time

Training is usually spent doing what a coach or manager tells you. Work is often the same whether instruction comes from a boss or clients. It is very important that we spend some time with ourselves doing things we enjoy. This will be very specific to the individual but 10-20 minutes a day of book-reading, listening to music, watching Netflix or walking the dog provides a great chance to relax and be in control of our own thoughts and actions. Spending quality time with yourself will also benefit the quality of sleep you receive later that day.

 

me-time
Enjoy yourself in a way the way you prefer most!

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I often see people in shock when they get sick or injured, yet when we take a look backwards, many subtle signs are noticed:

  • Feeling a bit tired or low on energy for a few days beforehand.
  • Pains in the knee, lower back, shoulder or generally achey muscles.
  • Weight is slightly reduced and finding it hard to eat as much.
  • Feeling irritable or a little sadder than usual.

These are all signs that your body is not adapting to the stresses placed upon it due to changes in routine. These changes can be a combination of many things such as harder training, reduced sleep, harsher weather conditions, extra work responsibilities or stressful personal relationships.

 

fatigue
It can be a vicious circle of mental tiredness, physical fatigue and stress. Try to cut down on a little of each and it could have a large impact across the board.

 

I usually recommend that people monitor each point of wellbeing by rating it out of 10.

For example, if you are generally an 8-9 across the board then suddenly mood and energy levels drop to 5/6 then you are highly at risk of picking up an injury or becoming ill. This is a strong sign that you need to spend extra time recovering from whatever is causing you stress before it’s too late and you have to deal with a pulled hamstring or head-cold.

 

kitmanlabs2
Kitman Labs are an Irish company based in San Francisco. Used by many top professional teams around the world to monitor athletes wellness and readiness to train/perform.

 

Whether increased sporting performance is your goal or you simply want to feel better in your general day-to-day life, I highly recommend this monitoring plan.

Feel free to share it with teammates, athletes, coaches or friends to help them perform better in whatever they are trying to achieve.

Any questions find me at fhsperformace@gmail.com.

One Week to Recover

weekly-recovery

Last year I posted about a number of recovery strategies, which can be found here.

Since then I have spoken with coaches that are more experienced than I am about the most practical ways of implementing recovery (particularly Martin Kennedy).

The first big change I have made is to split recovery into 2 separate sections;

Weekly & Daily Recovery.

This article concentrates on Weekly Recovery. Later in the week, I will post about Daily Recovery.

Weekly Recovery strategies should total at least 100 points each week. See the above infographic for examples of different strategies.

The second change is how to approach each strategy. Many people take recovery to the extreme and it starts to become a stress on their lives. This completely defeats the purpose and often prevents them from gaining the full benefit of training.

Ideally, we should try to include each type of strategy as part of normal life or use it to spend quality time with people who are important to us. Recovery of the mind can be as important as recovery for the body when training hard and preparing for a big game/event.

 

Enjoy A Massage

Sports MassageThis is not possible for everyone as access to a physio can be difficult or expensive. It will provide many benefits but should not be relied upon too often.

Self-massage with a foam roller or tennis ball will help many people. This can be done as part of a group session with teammates at the beginning/end of training.

It can also be done at home while watching Netflix or a match while in front of the fire.

Try to build foam rolling in around your own lifestyle so it doesn’t feel like a burden.

glute-release

Light Aerobic Work

Some light activity after a tough game or heavy session will help recovery through increased blood flow.

This is an excellent opportunity to spend time walking your dog, playing with children or listening to music.

With many people spending their working days inside, any chance to get more fresh air and Vitamin D should be used.

 

 

Enjoy A Stretch

Improving your mobility is going to reduce the risk of injuries and help performance in general. If done correctly it can also be a great chance to relax and unwind.

There are many yoga sessions available on YouTube such as here that can be done in the comfort of your own home.

There are also many variations of Yoga/Pilates classes available across the country. Attending these with teammates/friends is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of both mobility and quality time with friends.

A short Yoga video for 20 minutes before bed can also lead to a more peaceful and relaxed sleep.

 

Compression Clothes
Pre-Season training is tough. Heavy sessions, mucky pitches and cold weather. Recovery in warmer conditions is always more enjoyable than colder conditions. Wearing compression clothes after training holds in heat and keeps blood flow elevated. Pulling on a pair of leggings after a tough running session or an Under Armour top after upper body weights helps speed up recovery and have you ready for the next session. Wearing leggings to bed after an evening session also provides benefits although you need to be careful not to overheat.

 

Enjoy Hydrotherapy

All Blacks Pool RecoveryWater is one of the quickest ways to recover. The key is finding which type of water-immersion suits you best. Some swear by ice baths while they petrify others. The stress caused by fearing an ice bath has such a negative effect that there are little to no recovery benefits. Poor swimmers are often fearful of swimming pools and so will gain very little effects from this type of session while others find it very beneficial.

Epsom Salt baths are a sworn by method for many yet others may find it incredibly boring.

Finding what you enjoy and suits your lifestyle best is most important.

Ice baths can help bond teams together while going to the pool with friends or relaxing in the bath with music or a book will provide many recovery benefits.

Mo in Ice Bath

Check how much each strategy is worth and try to accumulate 100 points each week. Remember to include extra points if you are training particularly hard.

Try not to spend all your time focusing on recovery then forget to actually do the hard training. Don’t be that guy!

Piri-Piri & Lime Chicken

Ingredients:

 

Marinade:

2 Tablespoons of Piri-Piri Sauce (Lidl)

Teaspoon of Oregano

Teaspoon of Garlic

Tablespoon of Honey

Juice from 1 full Lime

 

6 Chicken Fillets

300g of Basmati Rice

400g of Frozen Stir Fry Vegetables

 

Steps:

  1. Mix ingredients for marinade in a large bowl.
  2. Butterfly the chicken fillets – Video Tutorial Here
  3. Place in marinade for 20-30 minutes
  4. Place under the grill until each side is golden brown
  5. Boil Rice – You’ve got this!
  6. Stir fry mixed veg
  7. Divide into 6 lunchboxes

 

Macro Breakdown per portion

 

Protein –                     30

Carbohydrate –          43

Fat –                            3

 

Calories –                    366