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Determine your recovery meal carb amount
In our previous 32Gi Sports Nutrition podcast we talked fasted training. When doing this recovery becomes all the more important. But how do you determine what recovery meal you need, and in this instance, how much carbohydrate do you need to put back? Mark Wolff has a great trick…
Last time on 32Gi Sports Nutrition we looked at fasted running or what not to eat in a sense, before you go out and train, which is a fantastic way to adapt the way you do things. I’ll put a link up to that podcast which was incredible.
If you’re joining us once again, thanks for joining myself, Mr Active, David Katz and Mark Wolff. We talked about the importance of recovery, no matter what sessions you’ve had, no matter what you’ve used during your session or pre-session, recovery is important.
Mark, if someone has, before we get more into recovery specifically, if someone has, as we talked about in the previous episode, adapted to this fasted training, recovery for them just really is so crucial.
How recovery is the key to success
Mark Wolff: It’s extremely crucial because that could be, or it probably will be their first meal of the day. People often ask me what the most important meal of the day is, and I often ask people what the most important meal of the day is. To be quite honest, the answers are always wrong.
The most important meal of the day is your recovery meal, it’s what you take in post-exercise. Your ability to strengthen from one session to the next, to grow from one session to the next, to get fitter, faster, stronger has a lot to do with how you recovery between your sessions and nutrition plays a very crucial role.
DK: Mark, again, like with our previous podcast, carbohydrates, it’s just this word and sugars and people are always worried about, are they consuming too much? Do they need to consume because everyone is saying to consume less carbohydrates. You have a great way to break this down, for people to understand post-exercise or post-session, how that session will determine what you need to refuel, with in terms of carbohydrates and sugars.
MW: Well, I firmly believe, and I’ve been experimenting with this over many years and not just with myself but with many athletes; that carbohydrate periodisation, to me is probably the healthiest and the best way to go.
I look at it from a health perspective as well, not just from a recovery perspective. If you think about it, you need to find complete balance between how you’re training and what you’re going to be eating. They’re two puzzle pieces that need to fit together very well. You cannot base a recovery meal, it cannot be the same meal over and over again, because your training sessions will change from time to time.
How to plan your recovery (based on your session)
The way to properly recover post-exercise is to actually look at that exercise session and say: Okay, how long did I train for? What intensity did I perform at, and by intensity I mean where was your heart rate sitting, because that’s generally an effort of measure of intensity.
I broke it down into three categories, so either you had a low intensity session, and it could have been a couple of hours or it could have been a short, low intensity session. You could have had a medium intensity session or you could have had a high intensity session.
High intensity sessions generally don’t last for very long periods of time because when you do a high intensity session, there’s usually a warm-up and a cool down and you might do some intervals in between, unless you were racing. But generally you don’t do a large number of very high intensity sessions over a long period of time.
Generally most sessions that people would do are low to medium intensity sessions and then I say to them: Okay, based on those sessions, what did you eat from a recovery perspective? I look at carbohydrate volume and the timing of the intake.
If you’re doing a very low intensity session, it means that you haven’t really chewed up much glycogen, because you’ve been performing at a much lower intensity. You’ve been sitting in a fat burn zone as opposed to a glycogen burn zone. You only really need carbohydrates to help stabilise the blood sugar and also replenish those glycogen stores. If you finish a low intensity session, you’re not going to be having blurred vision and dizziness because your blood sugar shouldn’t be really too low. You’ve actually been doing quite an easy session.
In that case I would say a lower carb meal would be absolutely perfect. You don’t need to go and flood your body with sugar that’s not going to be utilised to aid the recovery.
If you’ve done a medium intensity session, then I’d say probably look at a medium carb meal, and again, your body weight, your size and the duration of intensity that you performed at for that particular session should ultimately determine the amount of carbs and timing of that carb intake.
Obviously for the high intensity session, if it has been going on for a long period of time, you can take in a higher amount of carbs because you’ve probably, in all honesty, have depleted quite a percentage of your glycogen stores. A lot of people say to me: Okay, how do I know how much I’ve depleted and how much carbohydrates I should be taking etc, and I believe that it’s a very personal thing, first of all. Everybody is different. What is intense for somebody like me might be less intense or more intense for somebody else.
Use heart rate as a guide to level of workout
What might be a medium or low intensity session to me, could be a low intensity session for somebody else or could even be a high intensity session for somebody else. I see that. If I go on a ride, like a few weeks ago I went on a 80km ride with somebody, my average heart rate for that ride was about 119-120 beats per minute, but that athletes average heart rate was around 160 beats per minute. You can actually look at that heart rate measurement and obviously look at age as well and take it into account, where they’re sitting from a percentage of effort.
My meal could have been scrambled eggs and avocado because my intensity was fairly low, and theirs could have been maybe rolled oats, a higher carb kind of meal. But generally the way I tell athletes to determine what their recovery fuel should be is quite simply, listen to the messages that the body is giving you.
In other words, you might think you’re going on a low or medium intensity session, unless you’re very good with numbers and you understand your heart rate intimately, you might never get it 100% correct. I always say to them, go with the low or the medium carb meal, based on the way you’re feeling after exercise.
If you can barely walk to the change room and you’re extremely dizzy, chances are you might get a higher carbohydrate meal. But if you’re feeling very stable and I could hit that workout quite easily again and quite comfortable, probably you’d need a lower carb meal from a recovery perspective.
If you get that meal wrong and that’s something that can happen, so I never actually go for the higher carb meal firstly, I always go for the low to the medium. If I get the low carb meal wrong, I’ll introduce a second meal within an hour after that first meal to make sure that I actually stabilise my system properly. If I don’t, it’s going to lead to hunger cravings and it’s going to lead to incorrect eating for the rest of the day and you go on this roller coaster ride.
Find out why recovery is so critical
That recovery meal is so critical. It’s sometimes not one meal, it’s sometimes two because your recovery meal, you might not get right the first time. You might need to introduce a second recovery meal in order to make sure that the two together give you a proper recovery meal that will stabilise you for the rest of the day, if that makes sense.
DK: It makes a lot of sense. Mark, we did a fantastic video if people want to understand, and a better visualisation on it, it was part of 32Gi Classroom, I’ll put the link up to that. If people want to find out, if they still have questions regarding this, how best can they get hold of you? Can they sign up to the blog? What’s the best route?
MW: I think the sign up to my blog will be awesome for them because number one is that they can ask me questions there, as well as just get insight into everyday things that I experience, other people experience and it’s just a wealth of knowledge sharing. But on the other hand, you can always drop me an email at email@example.com and I’ll answer questions as best I can.
DK: I’ll put some links up to that on the transcription of this podcast, but that basic rule of thumb that Mark says is low intensity equals low carb, medium intensity equals medium carb, and high intensity equals high carb. Thanks for joining us once again on 32Gi Sports Nutrition. Until next time, that’s it from myself, Mr Active, David Katz and Mark Wolff.