True or False?
While more runners are becoming aware of the importance of their post workout nutrition, many are going overboard on antioxidants and it may actually jeopardize their recovery process.
We routinely stress our bodies on long runs and cultivate our speed with intervals. The result is some intended “damage” which is to be followed by rest and adaptation and thus the body responds by becoming faster and stronger, i.e. the training effect. But, key to this process is the recovery. These hard or long workouts leave us fatigued; our glycogen drained and causes some tissue destruction. Numerous studies show that free-radical formation increases after intense exercise and can contribute to muscle damage and soreness. Although regular physical training increases the activity of your body’s normal antioxidant enzymes to help defend against free radicals, it is suggested that taking antioxidants is beneficial since it may minimize this damage.
However, before you start stocking up on antioxidants in a bottle, you should know that it is a fine line between getting more antioxidants through food to assist your defense system and overloading your body with too much from supplements. Research is finding that there is a delicate balance of needing some pro-oxidants as well as antioxidants. Oxidants, like hydrogen peroxide, act as an important vasodilator which helps open blood vessels, and consequently oxygen and nutrients flow to muscles. Furthermore, some free radicals are important for triggering the signaling pathways that lead to increased mitochondria (powerhouse of cells). So, we need some of this “damage” to occur in order to adapt, and get stronger. Thus, avoid taking large doses of antioxidants supplements that may suppress the recovery process and the needed training adaptation.
For more on this topic read these peer-reviewed journal articles:
- Taking vitamins after exercise my undo some of the beneficial effects of the workout… School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at University of Birmingham 2009
- Antioxidants aren’t always good for you and can impair muscle function….Journal of Applied Physiology 2009
- 400 IU Vitamin E/day for 5 years increase risk of death by 5%…John Hopkins School of Medicine 2005
- 400 IU Vitamin E &/or 200ug Selenium increase prostate cancer by 17% (35,000 men from 2001-2009)…JAMA 306:1549,2011
- Quercetin chews has no significant difference on reducing inflammation or improving endurance…Journal of Sports Nutrition Exercise Metabolism
Your Full Nutrition Recovery Plan:
The research has been around for about 10 years now showing that the timing is as important as the composition of what you consume to initiate your recovery process. If you can eat or drink some food–in about a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio of carbs to proteins—within 30 minutes after a long or intense workout, you can enhance and expedite the recovery process.
Why? Consuming carbohydrates (only carbs can replenish glycogen) immediately after a long workout versus 2 hours later can accelerate the rate of glycogen synthesis up to 300% faster and expand the muscle glycogen storage. Adding a little protein to the carbs can help with tissue damage repair such as muscle and red blood cells. Research shows that runners not only recover sooner, but it results in a better performance during the next workout.
I have trouble eating right after a hard workout, so I created some smoothie recipes (see below) with the optimal ratio of carbs and protein. If I am short on time, I bring a chocolate soymilk and put it on blue ice in my car. I tell the runners I coach to do the same, or buy a yogurt smoothie or low fat chocolate milk or make a half of a peanut butter sandwich, and to consume it within 20-30 minutes after the workout.
What about antioxidants?
On a regular basis consume more carotenes by selecting brightly or deeply colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, dried apricots and mangos. For foods rich in vitamin C, add bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and citrus fruit to your meals. And incorporate more vitamin E in your diet with almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, wheat germ & asparagus.
Include foods rich in antioxidants soon after your hard workout. Add strawberries or blueberries to your smoothie (see my recipes below), or almonds to snack on with your chocolate milk.
Cool and soothing smoothies to pack in your ice chest for after your workout:
Put all ingredients in a blender:
1 low fat or nonfat vanilla yogurt (6 oz.)
1 cup light soymilk
½ cup blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
½ cup frozen mango (or frozen banana to make it thicker)
2 teaspoon wheat germ
(350 calories, 65g carb, 16g protein,8g fiber,190% DV vitamin C, 880 mg potassium, 18% DV vitamin E)
Creamy Banana Breakfast
1 cup fat free milk
frozen sliced banana
1 tablespoon reduced fat peanut butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon ground flaxseed
(350 calories, 53g carb, 15g protein,5g fiber,1090 mg potassium, 7% DV vitamin E)