We’ve been lifting heavy weights for the last few weeks. We’re really enjoying the Mass Made Simple Lite program by Dan Jon (at least when the squat rack is open). Back squats, pull-ups, shoulder press, and weighted rows are just a few of the exercises that we’re pumping out 2-3 times/wk. It takes a toll on the body. Exercise breaks down muscles and puts a lot of (good) stress on the body. You need to have at least three things in order to recover properly and get the most out of your workout program: Rest days, sleep, and proper nutrition.
Here are 5 tips to help with the nutrition aspect of recovering. No need for funky powders or a boatload of supplements.
Meat and starchy carbs post workout
The post-workout anabolic (muscle-building) window has been validated time and time again. That is, eating (usually carbs and protein) within 30 minutes of your workout to take advantage of increased insulin sensitivity. I think it’s a great strategy for most goals that involve muscle building. If you are trying to lose weight while building muscle (which is tough), then focus on the protein for this meal. Otherwise, eating about 30-50 g of carbs (1 potato, 1 plantain, etc.) and 25 g (1/4 pound of chicken, beef, etc.) of protein is a great starting point. Those in the body building space would suggest mixing straight sugar with dairy based protein powder for this use, but the average person will see just as much benefit from eating real food in the form of meat and starchy vegetables. You don’t want too much fat with this meal, but there’s no need to avoid it entirely.
A lot of people don’t appreciate the value of good quality seafood in a healthy diet. To me, it’s invaluable. When we’re talking about a highly active lifestyle, it becomes even more important. Fatty fish are the only well-studied efficient source for Omega-3 fatty acids (read about those here). Omega-3s will help fight the inflammation and sore muscles better than any other food. 1-2 servings of cold water fish (Salmon, tuna, anchovies, and sardines) per week is plenty. I will often eat fish the morning of a workout day as a sort of preventative measure. You can use fish as your post workout protein to kill two birds with one stone.
Besides cold water fish, oysters are another form of seafood I consume regularly. Not only do they contain omega-3s, they are also the best source of zinc. Zinc is important for immune function, and if you’re working out regularly, this needs extra attention. More importantly, zinc helps create and maintain healthy testosterone levels. Increased testosterone levels are associated with more muscle growth (fat-free mass), strength increases, and reduced soreness.
Bone broth is the mineral rich elixir of the gods. It can be made from leftover bones and carcasses from meat you’re eating anyway. It’s of vast importance in any gut healing diet. Due to its high collagen (a protein) content, it is great for repairing joints, muscles, and other connective tissues. Collagen is, after all, the most abundant protein in the human body. It also helps with skin elasticity and strengthens blood vessels. Additionally, bone broth contains a ton of minerals that are not easily obtained such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. These are needed for bone health, electrolyte balance and muscle recovery. I try to drink 1-2 cups per day.We’ll post a recipe for bone broth soon! Otherwise, ask your local butcher if they can make you some or search for grassfed bone broth online.
Drinking enough water is something so basic that even those that take great care of themselves can neglect. There’s no good universal recommendation for this like “8 glasses a day for everyone”. It’s all relative, but you can monitor this by the color of your urine. It should be a light, diluted yellow. If it’s dark yellow, you are likely dehydrated. If it’s completely clear, you are over hydrated. Definitely be sure to replenish water right after a workout, but also get in the regular habit of getting enough water throughout the day.
Most active people simply are not getting enough calories. It’s a little surprising given the obesity epidemic, but it’s true. The more high quality foods you eat the more building blocks (fat, carbs, and protein) and nutrients your body has to repair. Stop thinking of food as calories and think of it as energy. It’s not about burning as many calories as you take in either. Most of your daily calorie expenditure comes from your resting metabolic rate (this is dependent on hormones, muscle mass, and other factors).Track your calories for a few days and get an average. I recommend starting with 15 to 18 calories per pound of body weight. If your weight is not moving in the direction you want, first check the quality of the food you’re eating, THEN adjust your calorie intake. No need to track your calories everyday. If you’re eating relatively consistently, a day to day variation won’t matter much.
Before you go back to the gym or start a new workout program, make sure you have at least a few of these habits formed. They will help you see better results and spend less time too sore to walk.
What strategies have you implemented to help you recover quicker? Let us know in the comments!