There is a golden hour when it comes to post-race recovery! How best you utilise it can make the world of difference over the coming days and weeks. With the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge taking place in South Africa, we look at the how best to hand it. Get all the info on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.
Welcome back to 32Gi Sports Nutrition I’m Mr Active, David Katz and we are on the precipice of the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge taking place in just a few days’ time. Mark Wolff is at the expo if you want some valuable advice over the next couple of days. But we talked last week about the build-up to the race in terms of nutrition and during the race.
Today it’s all about recovery because for some people this is not the goal race. It’s part of an ongoing training regime. So recovery for anyone becomes very important. Mark Wolff back with us. Mark, maybe start straight after that race, you finish, for a lot of runners I know it’s hard to eat, but cycling would be a little bit different wouldn’t it?
The four stage of recovery
Mark Wolff: I think even for cyclists sometimes, depending on the effort they’ve put in, it is still hard to eat. I think the most important thing, to me there’s four stages of recovery. The first is rehydration. Get that fluid that you’ve lost during the event back into the system, you want to rehydrate as quickly as possible.
Nobody should finish with the same amount of fluid in the system as when they started. You definitely will finish slightly dehydrated. If you finish in the opposite direction, slightly overhydrated, that’s a health risk and can be really hazardous. You do lose fluid more in the form of sweat as opposed to the amount that you consume and that’s a given. Rehydration is the first stage.
The second stage is glycogen replenishment. If you have chewed up your glycogen levels. Obviously that happens when you’re going at a very hard pace. You will deplete your glycogen stores. You want to get those glycogen stores back up. There’s only one way to do that, consume carbohydrates post-exercise. It can be in the form of sugar, it can be in the form of a sports energy drink, it can be in the form of food. But you need to get those levels back up.
Then there’s muscle re-synthesis. How do you repair and start to recover muscles? Then you need to get protein into the system, that’s the third stage. So really start to get protein back in there. I would say that that should be consumed probably fairly quickly after the event as possible.
Finally, again, blood sugar stabilisation. So you want to make sure your blood sugar levels are stabilised and that those hunger pains that you’re feeling are also gone. Again, protein will help you feel a little bit fuller for longer, take in some fat, take in some carbohydrates. You’ll find that that actually works pretty well.
DK: What you find with a lot of these events as well, whatever point you can get that nutrition in afterwards but then within a couple of hours you’re really hungry. The next day you’re really hungry. For a lot of people that can persist for a few days. Is it a case of: Eat as much as you want? Or really you need to be eating the right things and be careful not to overeat. Yes, you need to refuel, but you are in danger of over-eating as well?
How correct stabilisation can prevent over-eating
MW: I think for a lot of people, especially if this is a goal race for them, when they cross that finish line and there’s that elation of crossing the finish line and this whole effort has come to an end. They definitely do go and treat themselves to quite a few things.
I always say: You’ve earned your pizza, but the problem is, is that some people earn that pizza for the next 6-7 days. It is very difficult to come through. So I always say that you need to set your next goal, number one. Because if you know that there’s another goal, you know that you can’t let yourself go for too long.
The other thing is, if you stabilise yourself, the way to actually stabilise yourself properly after that and if you do stabilise yourself properly after the event, you won’t land up over-consuming after the event. How do I recommend people do that? It’s simple.
From a nutrition point of view, take in something immediately afterwards. Start to eat and consume immediately afterwards. I would say within 45 minutes from the time you finish, eat immediately afterwards or take in a shake as soon as you can.
Again, within the hour after that first meal, consume another meal. Because once you’ve consumed that second meal, that could be within the next hour. You will find that those two meals together provide a really good level of stability. That will stabilise your system.
If you do that properly and I call it the ‘double meal recovery’. So within two hours you’re having two meals, you will find that later on, a couple of hours later on, you won’t feel the need to actually go and eat. You’ll actually feel very stable and you’ll feel like you don’t have to force food down, you won’t have that low blood sugar feeling or those hunger cravings.
The importance of a nutrient dense second meal
The first meal doesn’t have to be as nutrient dense, in other words it can be a protein recovery shake, it can be quite a bit of fluid intake etc. But the meal that you take after that should be nutrient dense. It should consist of fats, protein and carbohydrates.
Generally, I find that that second meal, if you miss that second meal, that’s when those hunger pains and that blood sugar drop starts to kick in. Often after a hard session or a hard race, I always consume something immediately afterwards.
I sit and let my body rest for about 30-40 minutes and then I see how I feel in that period of time. Sometimes your body will give you messages that you really need to take in something else. If you go and you eat again at that period in time, you will find that that will actually stabilise you nicely for the rest of the day.
DK: Mark, you talked about treating yourself and why not. But those initial two meals, you really want to stay away from that stuff surely? If like you say, you’ve done the process right in the beginning, then it’s not going to leave you with those hunger pains. The pizza, the sweets and treats that you’re looking at, the alcohol – and I want to get into that in more detail in a few weeks – but these things. Do treat yourself, but you want to keep them out of those initial two meals.
MW: I think if you make those two meals healthy, you’ll probably even feel better later on during the day. Because you’ll turn around and say: Wow, I raced, I burnt off a nice amount of calories and I managed to consume two healthy meals. I’m actually feeling pretty good. I don’t need to go mad now. That’s really what sets somebody back on track.
How alcohol pulls fluid from your muscles
It’s important that you mentioned the alcohol factor because a lot of people, they’ll drink beer post-event. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m saying that if this is part of a training plan and you are going to go and keep training after that and you want to recover quickly. Then alcohol is the last thing you should be consuming post-event.
The reason I say that is because it impairs your recovery process, it pulls the fluid out of the muscles, it dehydrates you. I’m not worried about the carbohydrate part, I’m worried about the alcohol part. It does dehydrate you and if you dehydrate yourself, you can be adding another 24-48-72 hours until your body actually goes into a proper recovery process.
You’re actually just inhibiting the recovery process by consuming alcohol after an event. In actual fact, you’re trying to rehydrate after the event and alcohol is dehydrating you. It’s a clash and I think that if somebody really wants to have some alcohol, then first recovery properly after an event. Save it for much later on during the day, rather first recovery completely.
DK: We’re heading into the festive part of the year in many parts of the world, so alcohol does come into play. We’ll talk about that in the coming weeks, very important. But heading back to post-race. You’ve done a race like the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge, hopefully for most people they’ve timed it right. They’ve got their nutrition right during the race. They’ve ridden according to their training and they finish feeling quite good.
But for those people who come to that finish line and they’re almost ready to collapse, what would your advice be? What can they get in almost straight away to pick that blood sugar up? Basically if they’re coming into the finish and they know their blood sugar is way too low. What’s the quickest way for them to get it up, to start that recovery?
The quickest way to get your blood sugar back up
MW: Immediately afterwards I would look for a sugar drink, straight away, to get the blood sugar up. I once ran a marathon overseas and they didn’t have any very sugary drinks at the finish. What actually happened was I landed up eating dates to get my blood sugar up. A couple of dates and it worked wonders.
There’s many ways you can get the blood sugar back up. But another reason that people feel terrible when they cross the finish line is also because they’ve actually lost a lot of fluid. They’ve got blood pressure changes and you want to get fluid back in as well.
The best way to get fluid back into the system is to obviously have more of an isotonic drink, something that’s going to help with the absorption of the fluid a lot more easily. Water on its own doesn’t necessarily help, but taking in a carbohydrate or an isotonic drink would help a lot more.
DK: There you have it, we hope you planned your recovery much like you planned your pre-race and your during the race nutrition. If you haven’t, there’s some valuable advice for you. From Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz, we’ll catch up with you next week. Stay tuned and do tune in again for another great interview.