I often get asked the question – how do I recover quicker? My answer Go green for recovery!>
Just eat the right foods at the right time. Your recovery meal is just as important as the training, so it is necessary to pay attention to your post-exercise food intake. It is actually very simple to get those needed nutrients your body will easily absorb.
In terms of recovery nutrition, your meal should be within 30-60 minutes after finishing your training session or race. This is the optimum window to effectively refuel those glycogen stores and electrolyte levels, while hydrating fatigued muscles and connective tissues. An understanding of which foods and in what combination in your meals to provide the most comprehensive nutrient profile should be the new focus of recovery meals.
What should be in your recovery meal? Basically, high quality carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables and fats together in balanced proportion. Generally, I suggest 15-20 grams of protein, 20-25 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of green vegetables. Similar to the new “Food Plate”, except half of your plate should be dark leafy greens and green vegetables – the key ingredient to better recovery.
Why? Greens help restore the body’s alkaline pH levels which often are misaligned by bouts of exercise. Exercise produces and acidic imbalance in the body leaving working muscles damaged. The body repairs better in a state of alkalinity. Go add greens and green vegetables to not only alkalize but help the body to replace calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals. Calcium and magnesium help muscles to relax and can help resolve some with sleeping and cramping issues. Because greens are comprised mostly of water, they help in rehydration. They also include insoluble fiber which aids digestion and transit time thru the digestive tract and colon. They act like food for the good bacteria in the gut, too – bonus!
Your green leafy greens and vegetables include phyto-nutrients which act as anti-oxidants – chemical compounds that combat stress-induced free radicals we create from exercise, inhaling pollution and holding on to negative thought processes. For endurance athletes, they need as many phytonutrients as they can get – so including them in every meal is the ideal. Phytonutrients are also beneficial as they do provide additional protein, but do not add significant amount of carbohydrates to your meal, (this is why plant based proteins are so vital to a vegetarian or vegan diet, too). You can eat vegetables with grains or you can eat vegetables with proteins. It is versatile option to any meal!
One easy way to go green for your recovery is to add them into a smoothie! I typically suggest kale (can be bitter for many), chard (less bitter, almost sweet) or spinach. Two of my favorites are the Green Monster and Creamy Green Banana smoothies. Adding the greens will boost the protein and phytonutrients content while adding freshness and making the smoothies a little less sweet.
Here are the recipes in case you want to make them.
Creamy Green Banana Smoothie – in blender
1 small banana (about ½ cup)
¼ pineapple – frozen or fresh
1 tablespoon Phytoganix or Greens+ powder or 1-2 leaves of kale
5 tablespoons yogurt or ¼ avocado and
2 tbsp protein powder
¼ cup each – pineapple juice or apple cider and water
Green Monster Smoothie
1 apple (or more to taste)
2 leaves of kale – about 1/2 cup (or can use chard, spinach or baby greens mix)
2-4 leaves of romaine lettuce
Juice of ½ -1 lemon
½ – 1 inch ginger to taste
1 clove garlic, vein removed (optional)
1 cup apple cider and ½ cup water
You can also go add green vegetables to lunch and dinner! Don’t just make a salad, make a ‘Garbage Salad’ with your romaine or spring mix, then cut in a leaf of kale, dandelion greens, parsley or chard. It will make the salad more interesting just by changing the greens! Then add broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, sugar snap peas, zucchini or any other green vegetables. Add handful of sunflower seeds, raisins, your protein and sweet potato slices, beans, vinaigrette dressing and you have an awesome meal! One large salad can easily be split it into two meals! You can also try broccoli slaw with a tahini dressing as a new side salad.
If you want to recover faster, you would greatly benefit from including your greens with your recovery meal. Although conventional wisdom suggests that endurance athletes need high levels of complex and starchy carbohydrates, I think athletes should
Focus less on including the grains, and just eat the greens! Go green for recovery. Your body will thank you for it and you will recover faster than you can remember.
Joanna Chodorowska is founder of Nutrition in Motion – a sports nutrition coaching company specializing in helping athletes reach their potential by changing what they eat. She offers Race Day Nutrition sessions to help athletes develop the right nutrition plan for their everyday, pre-race and race day meals. She is a level I certified USAT coach, certified in First Line Therapy, Genomic Sports Culinary Specialist and Metabolic Efficiency Specialist working with athletes of all levels to help them reach the finish line feeling like they could do it again. You can find her at www.n-im.net and on Facebook, too.