Performance improvement depends on a program of exercise to stimulate muscular and cardiovascular adaptation followed by a recovery period in which the body rebuilds itself slightly more fit than before. Thus, the real gain of exercise occurs during recovery, but only in the presence of adequate rest and nutritional support. Athletes who fail to replenish carbohydrates and protein shortly after workouts will never obtain full value from their efforts. So even though all you may want to do after a hard workout or race is get horizontal and not move for several hours, you must first take care of what might be the most important part of your workout: the replenishment of carbohydrates and protein.
Carbohydrate replenishment as soon as possible upon completion of the workout (ideally within the first 30 minutes) takes advantage of high glycogen synthase activity, imperative to maximizing muscle glycogen, the first fuel the body uses when exercise commences. Protein supplies the amino acids necessary to (a) maximize glycogen storage potential, (b) rebuild and repair muscle tissue, and (c) support optimal immune system function.
This is also an ideal time to provide the body with cellular protection support in the form of antioxidants. Because athletes use several times more oxygen than sedentary people, they are more prone to oxidative damage, which not only impairs recovery but is also considered a main cause of degenerative diseases. Consistent supplementation with a full spectrum vitamin/mineral supplement, along with any additional antioxidants, boosts and maintains the immune system and reduces recovery time.
The bottom line is that post-workout nutrition is an important component of your training, and properly done, allows you to obtain maximum benefit from your training.
Recommendation: Consume 30-90 grams of complex carbohydrates and 10-30 grams of protein (a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) immediately after workouts. This is easily accomplished with Recoverite, the all-in-one, complex carbohydrate/glutamine-fortified whey protein recovery drink. You can also prepare a variety of different flavored, easily made, and rapidly assimilated post-workout drinks using Hammer Gel or HEED for your carbohydrate source and Hammer Whey for protein. Or try this delicious/nutritious combination: 2-3 scoops of Sustained Energy plus 1-1½ scoops of Hammer Whey in orange juice. Supplements to consider for providing antioxidant support are the E-CAPS products Premium Insurance Caps, Race Caps Supreme, Mito-R Caps, Super AO, and Xobaline.
Next time (and final installment), Mistake #10: Improper Pre-Race Fueling