Come Back Stronger

Feb 2, 2009
Outside Magazine
The Meal After

The sooner you eat after training, the better. Your body is most ready to process new fuel when your metabolism is still hot, in the 15 to 30 minutes after you work out. The ideal recovery meal contains about one gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight, in a ratio of three or four parts carb to one part protein. The carbs replenish lost glycogen stores, and the protein aids muscle repair. But keeping track of all that can make your head spin. Here are ten great recovery meals you can rely on, no matter what.

1. Peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich on whole-grain bread with Gatorade or lots of water.
2. Low-fat chocolate soy milk. The perfect mix of carbs, protein, and fat.
3. Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal with nonfat ...

Method #1
You need to allow for recovery in the middle of a workout—but only when doing high-intensity cardio intervals or strength training.

CARDIO: Scientists don't know exactly what mechanism causes endurance athletes to feel fatigued. (Lactate, a metabolite produced when your body breaks down carbs without oxygen, was long thought to be the culprit, but that theory has been disproven.) This much is clear, though: Too much intense exercise at once is a no-no. "Overworking your body leads to a higher risk of injury," says Henderson.
STRENGTH: When you perform an intense muscle contraction, you burn through the essential energy systems used in strength training in approximately ten seconds. Which is to say, after a set, you're spent.

CARDIO: Once you've completed an interval, you need to let your heart rate fall so your system can replenish spent energy supplies.
STRENGTH: After a set, your body needs to recharge the taxed energy systems it relies on for short-term strength work.

CARDIO: During interval workouts, recover at about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate—or about 50 percent of maximum effort—for at least as long as the interval lasted. This may mean some walking between intervals.
STRENGTH: With lighter weights and more repetitions, rest for one to three minutes between sets. With heavier weights, take at least three minutes off between sets. Listen to your body: If you don't feel fully recovered, don't touch the weights.

Studies have shown that people get the most bang for their buck with three to five workouts per week. Anything more provides only negligible fitness gains.

CARDIO: During low-intensity aerobic workouts, your body burns primarily carbohydrates and fat. During high-intensity intervals, you burn more carbs than fat, and stress your cardiovascular system.
STRENGTH: Weight lifting literally breaks down muscle fibers.

CARDIO: First, you need to cool down. Then you need carbohydrates and some protein, and a lot of fluids to replace water lost through sweat.
STRENGTH: Your muscle fibers need two things to rebuild themselves: protein and time. According to Henderson, it takes 48 hours for stressed muscle fibers to fully repair.

CARDIO: Cool down with five or ten minutes of easy jogging, walking, or cycling. This will gradually bring your heart rate down and allow your body to return to its resting state. Then eat a good recovery meal. (For some suggestions, see "The Meal After," below.)
STRENGTH: Take at least one day off between harder workouts.

Break Time
Pro athletes use a smart strategy called periodization to maximize fitness gains. This involves breaking the year into distinct training sections, each with different workout goals and rest periods. Do you need to do this? Probably not. But taking breaks from training is key if you want to avoid chronic fatigue and its myriad side effects.

Each person has a limit to how much work he or she can do. Once you exceed that limit, you experience symptoms like muscle pain, increased resting heart rate, and lethargy.

After two to three weeks of training, take a week in which you cut the duration of your workouts in half. And do them at a low intensity—about 60 percent of maximum effort. This may have you getting passed by dudes in jeans if you're a jogger, but resist the urge to speed up.

Filed To: Flexibility, Nutrition

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