Recovery nutrition isn't just for cyclists (thought they're certainly the most obsessive about it). We branched out and asked five world-class endurance veterans in various sports to dish up their postworkout refueling strategies.
Ed Viesturs, five-time Everest summiter
You get these cravings. Your muscles are wasted, so protein tastes good. Your glycogen levels have been trashed, so you crave carbohydrates. At base camp, our Sherpa cook does lots of local foods—lentils, rice, potatoes, pancakes, eggs. Typically we come off the mountain, and he cooks us up a ten-pound pizza. And God, he puts everything on it—potatoes and Spam and cheese and onions—it's this huge pile. And believe it or not, it's pretty good.
Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Champion
Early in my career protein was not very popular, but later on I made more of an effort to combine carbs with protein. When I was training hard, after, say, a six-hour ride, I would make a big pot of pasta with olive oil and veggies on it and then some salmon or organic beef. And I'd try to get that all in during the first 30 minutes to an hour.
Andrew Mclean, ski-mountaineering guru
Ski touring involves 7,000 to 10,000 feet of climbing a day, a lot of trailbreaking, cold weather, and eight to ten hours of hiking. The night before, I eat a lot of pasta and have a good meal that morning; when I'm done, more pasta, maybe some Gatorade. I also do a lot of tea, heavily sweetened with Gatorade. That way, you get your caffeine and your electrolytes.
Ryan Bolton, U.S. Olympic triathlete
Chocolate milk is a great example of a good recovery drink. Good amount of sugar and protein, which is what you need, and it tastes good. Some people have a hard time eating after running. Your body is starving for sugar, and you want something your body can use really fast.
Alison Dunlap, four-time national Cyclocross champion, two-time national mountain-bike champion
As soon as I walk in the door after a workout, I make a recovery drink that combines carbohydrates with protein. Sometimes I even bring it into the shower with me so I get it right away. Then, within the hour, I tend to have a large meal. My favorite is a really simple pasta with olive oil, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and a little Parmesan cheese.
Food in a Bottle
We taste it so you might now have to
Endurox R4 ($30)
Flavors: Fruit punch, tangy orange, lemon-lime
Taste: Fruit punch and orange are tasty, but lemon-lime is the standout.
Specs: 53g carbs/14g protein/1.5g fat per 12-ounce serving
Concept: Burke's basic 4:1 carbs-to-protein concept. Additives include the amino acid glutamine to help boost immune response and muscle recovery, and ciwujia, a traditional Chinese herb for fatigue and ailing immune systems, used by mountain climbers to improve high-altitude performance.
Upshot: The benchmark, all-in-one recovery drink. Quick to mix, easy to swallow.
Hammer Pro and Hammer Gel ($15/26 oz.)
Flavors: Vanilla, chocolate, espresso (with caffeine), raspberry, banana, orange, apple-cinnamon
Taste: Delicious—and not too sweet
Specs: 45.5g carbs/18.5g protein/1.4g fat per 8-ounce serving
Concept: The only customizable recovery drink. Mix the simple whey protein/glutamine powder with premeasured carbs (in the form of seven flavored gels). Optional additives, like grape seed extract and ginkgo biloba, are available from Hammer Nutrition. Standard 4:1 formula with complicated packaging.
Upshot: While the seven flavor options are a nice touch, you¹ll need to keep track of a lot of plastic containers.
Push G4 ($30/44.8 oz.)
Taste: Like a slightly sour margarita mixer.
Specs: 27g carbs/less than 1g protein/0g fat per 8-ounce serving
Concept: The makers of Push G4 tout the wondrous properties of galactose, a simple sugar that they claim helps maintain blood glucose levels after exercise. On the other hand, Push G4 contains only trace amounts of protein and only a moderate amount of carbs unless mixed at double strength.
Upshot: An adequate hydration drink masquerading as a recovery drink. (Serving suggestion: in a pitcher at a post-race party, garnished with lime wedges.)
Revenge Pro ($20/14.2 oz.)
Flavors: Orange blast, tropical mango
Taste: Not too sweet, with a slightly gritty texture
Specs: 20g carbs/0.5g protein/4g fat per 12-ounce serving
Concept: A versatile hydration and recovery beverage that belongs to "The System," Champion Nutrition's three-part (before-during-after exercise) muscle-recovery plan. .The ingredient list—which includes everything from proprietary protein-amino acid blends to omega-3 fatty acids—helps support CN's bold claim that Revenge Pro is "the world¹s most advanced exercise drink."
Upshot: Sure, it's a sophisticated product. But it's probably the good taste that's going to keep athletes loyal.
Smartfuel Biofix ($15/41.6 oz.)
Flavors: Wildberry, peach mango, orange smoothie
Taste: Think Orange Julius with a high-performance punch.
Specs: 59g carbs/11g protein/2g fat per 16-ounce serving
Concept: Part three of Smartfuel's before-during-after system, Biofix uses a 5:1 carbs-to-protein ratio, with loads of simple and complex sugars and a raft of vitamins and minerals. Biofix lacks some conventional recovery ingredients, like glutamine, but Smartfuel has nailed the taste.
Upshot: May not be the perfect recovery beverage, but it's a sweet, functional treat following exercise.
The Performance Grocery Cart
When it comes to the bulk of your daily caloric intake, real food rules. Hence, the following tips for effective grocery shopping, grappling with the glycemic index, and grabbing fast food on the go.
Recovery Foods: Snacks we like after a good butt-kicking
- turkey sandwhich on whole grain bread
- bagel with cream cheese
- graham crackers cottage cheese
- 16 oz. skim milk with 5 tbsp. sugar
- soy milk
- natural peanut butter and jelly on sourdough
- non-fat yogurt with Grape-Nuts
- water crackers and bean dip
- Cheerios with skim milk and raisins
Supermarket Suprises: Processed foods that work
- Nabisco Air Crisps
- Chex Mix
- Nutri-grain Cereal Bars
- Quaker Fruit amd oatmeal Cereal Bars
- Toaster Bagel Shoppe bagels
- Gina Italian Village Cheese Ravioli
- Carnation Instant Breakfast
- Healthy Choice microwave Popcorn
- Nilla Wafers (reduced fat)
From the Drive-up Window: Fast, but still food
- Wendy's baked potato (light on the cheese)
- Arby's Light Roast Chicken Sandwich
- Wendy's Chili
- McDonald's Vanilla Shake
- Taco Bell Chicken Soft Tacos
- Taco Bell Beans and Rice
GI Favorites: How blood sugar can help you
Selecting foods based on thier glycemic-index rating isn't as hard as it may seem (remember, you're eating high on the GI scale right after yourworkout and then tapering to low-GI foods later in the day and before your next workout.) Below, a few suggestions, according to general GI category.
- baked potato
- rice cakes
- orange juice
- oatmeal cookies
- cheese tortelinni
- sweet corn
- pita bread
- black beans
- chocolate milk (low-fat)
- nuts and seeds
Recovery By The Numbers: A step-by-step guide
We know you're busy. All the more reason to familiarize yourself with your body's recovery clock. To help you instill some good nutritional behavior, we've mapped out your optimum 24-hour protocol for intense training or racing.
0:00-2:00: The Main Event
This is your race or workout. During activity lasting an hour or less, hydrate with water, drinking four to eight ounces every 15-20 minutes; morethan an hour; hydrate with a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
02:00-03:00: The glycogen window
Somewhere between 20 and 60 minutes after your activity, consume about one gram of carbohydrates for every pound of your body weight, and a fourth as much protein. A 180-pound male would eat 180 grams of carbs and 45 grams of protein; this might consist of a pre-packaged recovery beverage (Food in a Bottle) or whole foods with the proper recovery nutritional balance (The Performance Grocery Cart). The sooner you can ingest this, the better; your body's glycogen production and storage is peaking during this peroid.
03:00-05:00 The follow-up meal
Two to four hours after your event, have another meal with the following ratio: 65 percent carbs, 20 percent fat, 15 percent protein. That's pasta with tuna or salmon; a roast turkey sandwich on whole wheat; or a burrito with chicken. Carbohydrates should rank high to moderate on the glycemic index, the scale that evaluates food according to how rapidly it stimulates a rise in blood glucose.
05:00-24:00: Rest and relaxation
Over the next 18 hours, follow the 65/20/15 ratio, taking in enough food to round out your total caloric needs, likely between 2,500 and 3,000 for an adult male and 2,000 and 3,000 for females.Also drink plenty of water, devote 15-20 minutes to stretching, and at least eight hours to sleep. Once a week, try—no, force yourself— to get a massage and a soak in a hot tub.
20:00-21:00: The pre-race or pre-workout meal
Eat a 65/20/15 meal two hours before your next event or workout to allow time for adequate digestion.
23:00-24:00: A final boost
Drink 6-10 ounces of a carbohydrate-rich sports drink 15-20 minutes before your activity to spike you blood glucose level.
Meals to Help You Deal
Some menus to fit around an early morning workout, a midday workout or an evening one—remember, it’s low glycemic index foods before exercise, and high ones right after.
Breakfasts before a morning training session:
- Non- or low-fat yogurt with diced apple and slivered almonds; one slice of toast with Nutella spread.
- Any bran cereal with sliced peaches or sliced banana and skim or soy milk; half a grapefruit.
- Whole black beans, cheddar cheese, brown rice, and sunflower seeds on corn tortillas
- Veggie pocket: combine sliced red and green peppers, sweet corn, peas, plain non-fat yogurt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Stuff a pita pocket with the mixture.
Dinners for the nocturnal sweaters:
- Meat-filled ravioli with tomato sauce (vegetarian option: butternut squash ravioli with pesto sauce); modified Waldorf salad—greens with sliced apple and walnuts..
- Grilled chicken apple sausage; tomato soup; fruit salad of sliced pears, apples, plums, grapefruit and grapes.
Breakfasts for the early birds who have already been up and out:
- Cornflakes with raisins, skim or soy milk; wedge of honeydew melon
- Waffles topped with diced pineapple; glass of orange juice
Lunches for the exercised:
- Lean ham sandwich on a Kaiser roll, French fries, handful of jelly beans
- Black bean soup and corn chips, orange soda, fruit leather
- Potato gnocchi tossed with butter and sage; roasted beet salad—slice beets and put in oven for 40 minutes, toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little feta cheese. Handful of GORP (dates, raisins, chocolate chips, peanuts, and almonds)
- Chicken marbella—bake chicken breasts with prunes, brown sugar and white wine; serve with couscous. Angel-food cake.