Anyone with a serious interest in sport knows that nutrition is an important part of achievement. This is especially the case when it comes to taking care of your body after you compete or train, whether you are getting involved in sport in order to compete on an amateur level, professionally or simply to lose weight and get fit. Whilst a lot of attention is paid to what sports people eat before sport and exercise, it’s also very important to remember to refuel afterwards, as this will affect recovery and the ability to train over and over again.
What you need to consume, and when you need to consume it, will depend on the kind of activity that you have undertaken, how long the activity lasted and how intense it was. For workouts lasting longer than an hour and a half it’s important to replace lost minerals and carbohydrates through something like a sports drink or a nutrition gel – you can either buy sports drinks or make them yourself from a high juice squash with a quarter teaspoon of salt added.
Carbohydrates are particularly important after exercise and should be taken in within 15 minutes after the end of a session to help get glycogen levels back to normal. In order to sustain glycogen stores for ongoing training 0.3-0.6 grams of carbohydrate is required for every pound of body weight within two hours after finishing exercise – after that time only half the amount of glycogen is stored in the muscles. However, eating carbohydrates alone is not enough and research has shown that those who eat both carbohydrates and protein – at a ratio of 4:1 – (four grams carbohydrate and one gram of protein) have 100% greater muscle glycogen than those who ate only carbohydrates. If you’re wondering what all the fuss about glycogen is, it’s the source of the energy that we need for ongoing exercise.
As well as being required for glycogen, protein is important for the amino acids that are needed to help your body recover from exercise, increasing the absorption of water and helping rebuild any muscle tissue damaged during the exercise process. These amino acids can also help boost the immune system, building up better resistance to common colds and keeping you healthier.
Eating a well-balanced meal is essential within 30 minutes to an hour after finishing exercise – or if this is not possible a snack that combines protein and carbohydrate is a good alternative. A carbohydrate and protein sports bar, a fruit smoothie, a handful of nuts and dried fruit or a carton or two of yoghurt will all give you the right balance for that essential refuelling.
Sport is an essential part of a happy and healthy childhood and Activate Sport runs some fantastic sports camps that encourage children to compete, get fit and learn how to look after themselves. Find out more information on our coaching courses.