Summer is here! Time to get the most out of our outdoor workouts without burning out once the Fall arrives. Optimizing your nutrition in combination with lifestyle factors can positively impact both your performance and recovery.
What is optimal nutrition?
Optimal nutrition is fueling your body with the right quantities and types of macronutrients at the right time in order for your body to function at its best. Even though this is very individualized and not a one size fits all approach with multiple factors to consider, there are a few general recommendations. Strategically timing your macronutrients can improve your energy output, improve recovery and decrease the risk of injury.
Let’s start with understanding the three macronutrients.
Carbs are the body’s primary source of energy and the most efficient fuel for exercise because our cells can metabolize carbs rapidly. Because of this, having an adequate supply of stored glycogen in our liver and muscle cells before exercise can help keep us fueled and meet the demands of our workout sessions.
There are three main categories of carbs; simple sugars, starches, and fibre. Simple sugars are broken down and can be readily used versus starches or fibre. It takes more time for your body to break down complex carbs which is why they keep you full and satiated for longer.
One to four hours before your workout session is a great time to consume carbs to build up your muscle glycogen and carb stores to fuel your workout session. Research has shown that consuming protein during this pre-workout meal can reduce muscle soreness 24-hours post-workout.
Aim for 2:1 ratio of carbs: protein (ie: 40 grams of carbs to 20 grams of protein)
When it comes to intra-workout energy dips, simple sugars can come in handy when we are exercising for more than 60 minutes at or above 70% of our VO2max. Including free-form amino acids in this beverage would be something to consider if you want to exercise effectively for longer periods of time.
Carbs are just as important before exercise to fuel your workouts as they are post-exercise. In order for your muscles to recover and potentially grow we need to replenish our depleted glycogen stores. The longer you wait to replenish your glycogen stores, the more inflammation, muscle damage and soreness will build up. It is essential to also consume protein during this post-workout meal or else your body will recycle its own amino acids.
Aim for 2/3:1 ratio of carbs: protein post-workout (ie: 40-60 grams carbs to 20 grams protein)
Protein is a key macronutrient when it comes to building muscle. There are two main considerations regarding protein intake; total consumption of protein and timing. In order to optimize muscle protein synthesis, we want to spread out our protein intake throughout the day to allow our bodies to digest and utilize protein efficiently.
Aim to consume 20-40 grams of protein every 3-5 hours.
** Aim for 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight **
Fat consumption and timing are going to be specific to the athlete and their goals. Fats are a great fuel source for endurance athletes because of their ability to provide sustained long-term fuel compared to carbs.
As a general rule of thumb, we want to limit how much fat is consumed post-workout, because fats will slow down the digestion of carbs and protein. Post-workout, we want to provide our bodies with carbs and protein relatively in a quick manner to optimize muscle protein synthesis.
This is not to say we shouldn’t consume fats. They are essential macronutrients and studies have shown that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can positively influence post-exercise inflammation and muscle recovery.
Outside of optimizing your macros, there are also a few key nutrients that can have a significant impact on both your performance and recovery.
- B Vitamins
- Electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium chloride)
- Omega 3
- Iron and Vitamin C
- Vitamin D and Calcium
Lifestyle factors are just as important as nutritional considerations when it comes to optimizing your performance and recovery. Two important factors that play a crucial role are stress and sleep.
If we are chronically stressed and our cortisol levels are always high, impacting our body’s natural cortisol spikes and dips in response to exercise. This can cause low energy levels, put us at risk for injury, and can lead to overtraining. Exercise is a stress and can be positive stress when we are not dealing with chronic stressors from day-to-day life. It is important to take a step back from the gym if we are unable to provide our bodies with the recovery that is necessary in order to grow and function optimally.
Sleep quality and quantity are essential when it comes to recovering from your exercise session and performing for your next session. Growth hormone, which is responsible for maintaining, building, and repairing tissues is released the most overnight during sleep. If you want to optimize your performance and recovery then make sleep a top priority.
The importance of both optimizing nutrition and prioritizing sleep and stress management should not be underestimated if you want to get the most out of your workout and avoid burning out.
The above information is for educational purposes and should not be used as medical advice.
Please consult our certified nutritional practitioner to discuss and create an individualized plan.