This is the fourth installment in a 4-part series about nutrition from our resident expert, Jenna Kowalski. Jenna is a Cat 2 cyclist and graduated from Cal Poly with a B.S. in Nutrition.
While riding, we put emphasis on consuming primarily carbohydrates. Recovery nutrition emphasizes a combination of carbohydrate and protein, preferably in a 4 to 1 ratio. Meaning that for every 4g carbohydrate, we consume 1g protein. This combination of nutrients is important for two main reasons:
1. Carbohydrate consumption triggers insulin secretion
2. Protein provides a source for rebuilding tissues
If you remember from my first blog post, the primary function of insulin is to allow entry of glucose into cells, or tissues (an analogy I used to describe the process to a co-worker: insulin acts as a key; as you would need a key to enter a castle, glucose needs insulin to enter cells). Insulin also functions in alternate mechanisms to aid the recovery process. The presence of insulin stimulates protein synthesis (creation of new protein for tissue building) and inhibits protein degradation (breakdown of protein).
So what does this mean for you? While you were out pinning it for a few hours during your race or training ride, your body was busy breaking down proteins and tissues to be recycled as fuel. This process will continue UNLESS you eat! So, you eat or drink your recovery snack, which is digested into glucose and proteins. The glucose triggers the secretion of insulin, and insulin tells your body to stop breaking down and start rebuilding (using the protein you just consumed), ultimately resulting in less fatigue and the ability to maintain performance throughout the training week or race weekend.
Now that you have made it through your hammer ride, it’s important to acquire a recovery snack or meal ASAP. And by ASAP, I mean within 30 minutes of ride completion. This 30 minute window is essential to achieve the most benefit of the recovery process previously described. And conveniently, many recovery nutrition products are made for this reason. Recovery drink mixes (i.e. Fluid, Endurox, GU Brew Recovery, Hammer Recoverite) are a great option as they provide a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate and protein, as well as other *antioxidants, and amino acids to aid the recovery process.
Other convenient choices include bars or Roks made by Clif Bar – Check out our Nutrition section on artscyclery.com for more options! And what about chocolate milk? Chocolate milk is an excellent recovery drink. With an optimal ratio of carbohydrate and protein, it does the job. Chocolate soymilk is another alternative, but if you have the choice, go for the milk (milk provides both a quick and slow release type of protein, allowing for longer lasting recovery; soy only provides quick). However, chocolate milk and soymilk do not provide the added goodies which most recovery products advertise (added vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.).
Within two hours post ride or race it is important to eat a regular meal with carbohydrates, protein, and fat to replenish caloric losses and glycogen stores. The carbohydrates consumed post ride are converted to glycogen at a higher rate during the first two hours post ride, so take advantage! This glycogen replenishment is especially important if a hard workout or race is planned for the next day. AND if you have a comfy spot to relax, put on some compression tights, elevate your legs, and enjoy the rest of your day :)
*Many recovery nutrition products advertise added ingredients such as L-glutamine, an amino acid, which has been shown to support the immune system, decrease muscle soreness and inflammation; electrolytes replenish those lost through sweat, and are needed for proper nerve transmission, muscle function, and fluid balance; antioxidants, like vitamin C and E, reduce tissue damage due to free radicals (fancy name for destructive oxygen molecules).