You're that sweating, jellified heap of humanity that slumps to the floor post-Bikram-yoga-session (like my Veggie host), or perhaps you have that genteel glow acquired from a taxing Pilates session or a long, satisfying run. You crave that feeling! Good on you! But how to recover?
As a vegetarian / vegan you may feel uncatered for when it comes to post-exercise recovery snacks and shakes. Well, worry no more! I am here to illuminate what you can, should and might want to use, as well as the tasty, tricksy ways you can avoid the trap of buying into the unnecessary supplements industry. Hooray!
|The PB&J smoothie is a perfect post-workout drink|
The Everyday Veggie actually touched on this subject recently, giving some tasty recipes for just such a post-workout situation. Throughout this article I'll link to some of the recipes I think she has that should help you make an awesome recovery, whether it's a snack or a full blown meal.
So, let's say you've just stumbled back from the gym, slathered in sweat like an exhausted equine and foaming at the mouth for something nommable; ANYTHING to satisfy that exercised little tum of yours. To what do you turn? A big bowl of pasta? A chocolate bar, for a quick "fix"? I say neither! There is a very simple way to begin recovery as soon as possible and it goes like this:
- Eat some simple carbohydrates, such as fruit, within twenty minutes of finishing exercise.
- Keep yourself hydrated, drinking at least 500ml of water after your workout.
- Eat a mixture of carbohydrates and protein within two hours of finishing exercise.
There is a hell of a lot of misinformation surrounding these topics, and this can be very tough to cut through for a concerned gym bunny! However, I'll quickly try to explain the advice above and hopefully have time for a rant at the end.
So, why is point 1 important? Well, during exercise, you exhaust the glucose in your muscles (known in the fitness biz as glycogen), giving you that sensation of tiredness. In extreme cases of glycogen deprivation in the muscles, you can end up hitting what runners know as "the wall": that stage of complete muscular failure that looks a bit like this. Exercising to the point of deep fatigue is not a bad thing necessarily, but fatiguing to that point by not eating a simple carbohydrate within twenty minutes is not clever or advisable and will slow down any fitness gains or recovery you wish to make.
To begin recovery, I suggest a small portion of fruit such as a couple of plums, pear or a handful of berries. Any of these will help you recover that lost glycogen and get those muscles ready and restored. This allows them to begin recovery more quickly, meaning less muscular soreness, bigger grains in muscular development and also no more itching for a snack! If you have the time (or a lovely partner to supply you with it), you could try the PB&J smoothie, which hits all of these needs and tastes flippin' delicious at the same time!
Point 2: hydration. This is absolutely crucial before, during and after exercise. Hopefully you have kept yourself well hydrated (2.5 litres a day is about right, more if you exercise regularly). A good idea for a post workout drink could be something like coconut water; it contains essential electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and phosphorus, which are all fantastic for your recovery rate as well as hydrating the hell out of you - the Everyday Veggie swears by it! Remember that even if you didn't sweat massively during your workout, you will still have lost fluid and nutrients and these must be replenished or you could suffer from poor recovery and an unnecessary headache!
Onto point 3. This is both the most important and most confused area when it comes to recovery advice. We are often told that the best way to recover is to go home, bloat ourselves obscenely with a vat of rice / pasta and eat several million tons of protein. Some people substitute a meal with a protein shake here, a practise which is even worse than pasta bloating, in my mind.
Let me say this clearly: you do not NEED to eat pasta, rice or other complex carbohydrates after a workout, or overeat protein. A small amount of protein is all that is needed for optimal results, around 10-20gm. You can get this from mushrooms, artichokes, legumes, nutes, seeds and many other types of fruit and vegetables. There really is a huge variety! Add some spinach, sun-dried tomatoes or olives to get an iron boost and you are right on track!
Make sure that this meal is relaxing and enjoyed somewhere quiet and chilled; even watching the TV whilst eating can be a subconscious stressor and can slow down digestion and recovery! Try sitting at the table, eating with a friend or partner and generally enjoying and tasting your food. Make the taste of the food your stimulation, instead of getting outside stimulation that negates the tasty goodness you are chowing down on! I suggest something yummy like this Pad Thai or this Soba Noodle Stir Fry, which are both packed full of protein and yummy simple carbohydrates, which will break down at varying degrees to give your body perfectly timed releases of energy.
Finally, don't feel beholden to eat pasta and rice because "everyone uses them" after exercise. It's not a fashion statement - and if it was, it would be as bland as a biege cardigan. Remember, our cavedude ancestors would have recovered by eating a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, and they were definitely looking for quick recovery. It takes on a different meaning when you are trying to avoid being a sabertooth's aperitif! The point is that selection and variety is always preferable to hammering your body with one single carb, no matter how "worthy" it is considered. Variety: not just the spice of life, it's essential!
As ever, it's been an opinionated pleasure and I hope this helps you. Please leave any questions you have in the comments section at the bottom and I will help where I can!
Keep safe, eat healthy and try something new!
David Bloomfield, nutritionist type
P.S. Here are a few more suggestions from this here blog:
If you are a sensible little planner bee and want to prepare something tasty for after exercising, I suggest something like these vegan sugar-free choconut energy balls, rich in omega 3 oils and a good source of essential vitamins and minerals.
How about trying quinoa for protein? It's a serious powerfood and tasty to boot, especially when used in this recipe for Leek and Lentil Bake. Delicious and fearsome!
Because I am such a damn fiend for Squash and Mushroom Risotto, I had to include this recipe too. It's good for you, I swear!