Recovery & nutrition post a strenuous workout is a major challenge not only for athletes but also for individuals concerned about their general fitness. Is it possible to recover from a strenuous exercise in a healthy manner without abusing steroids or EPO?
The answer is Yes! Recovery Drinks.
The ultimate goal of any post-exercise nutrition is replenishing glycogen stores and encouraging the protein synthesis in the body. This is exactly the agenda of recovery drinks. They are rich in carbohydrates and proteins, that allow human body to replenish the former, lost during the workout.
Why do we need them?
Break down of proteins followed by decrease in protein synthesis and glycogen levels is the aftermath of any exercise. Further, insulin levels drop down, lowering the ability of muscles to absorb glucose. Recovery drinks are necessary to build glycogen which are the power source of muscles and amino acids that constitute the muscle protein.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of glucose and molecules of glucose are used by our body to build glycogen. Inconsistent glycogen stores lead to a breakdown of muscle protein and loss of muscle functions as a whole. Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, is also released as a result of physical stress increasing the break down of muscle protein.
Recovery drinks employ proteins along with carbohydrates (glucose) to enhance the insulin release in the body. Whey hydrolysate is the easily absorbed and commonly employed protein in these drinks. Leucine, an amino acid, which is found to work synergistically along with insulin in maximizing protein synthesis is also being extensively used in recovery drinks during the recent times.
Isn’t a healthy meal sufficient for post-workout recovery?
Of course, there there are a plenty of natural super foods that are considered much healthy options for recovery post a heavy workout session. However, in most athletes, tolerance for liquids is found to be more than solid food after a strenuous exercise. Further, liquids were found to be digested and absorbed more instantaneously than solid food.
Liquids also hold the advantage of refueling the body with fluids lost in the form of sweat during exercise. Recent studies showed that if the recovery process is started immediately after a workout, the rate of glycogen synthesis is bound to become higher . This study makes it clear that, recovery drinks boost a quicker recovery compared to solid nutrition and is a better choice if the interval for a follow up task/performance is very short, not more than few hours.
Directly following a workout, I recommend that you have a liquid meal that contains protein and carbohydrates or a similar recovery drink. These drinks don’t require a lot of digestion, so the nutrients will get into your system fast, allowing for your body to jump-start the recovery process”, says Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, a nutritional consultant.
Which Recovery Drink should one opt for?
A majority of you reading this must be wondering by now that this article talks about recovery mantra for athletes and will this formula be of any use for an individual who considers working out as a recreational or casual practice.
Recovery is necessary after any kind of exercise such as swimming, a long run or weight training session. There are a wide variety of flavoured and non-flavoured drinks to choose from. Some of them are isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks.
Majority of recovery drinks available in the market are isotonic drinks, that contain salts & sugar at the same concentrations as our body fluids and quickly supply a boost of carbohydrates, replacing the fluids that are lost by the body through sweating.
Hypertonic drinks are more suited for toping up the muscles and contain salts & carbohydrates in higher concentrations. Hypotonic solutions are suitable for gymnasts who doesn’t require much of carbohydrates and only need to replenish the bodily fluids.
Why not a glass of Plain Water or Fruit Juice?
Water might be the best option for rehydrating the body. But, when consumed in excess, water might cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the body over a long run leading to water intoxication.
Fresh fruit juice in combination with a protein powder is a natural alternative to these recovery drinks. However, the time and recovery performance of this combination is very rudimentary compared to that of recovery drinks and may not be feasible if the recovery time is very short.
If you are a professional and need to get back to work after a 30 minute run, recovery drink would be a suitable choice. However, if you are not in a hurry and seek for a natural alternative, then 2 glasses of fruit juice added with a little protein recovery powder will do the job.