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This is a particularly bold statement, but it’s one hundred percent true. Runners, cyclist, triathletes and anybody doing cardio might be prone to thinking that once a training session’s done, that’s it. You don’t need to think about working out again until your next session rolls around.
But not only is this approach sub-optimal, it’s downright detrimental to progress.
Post workout nutrition is not only responsible for helping your body recover from the session you’ve just done, but it kicks off preparation for your next session. If you finish a run, swim or bike ride at eight or nine o’clock in the evening and have another session planned for seven the next morning, you’ve not got a lot of time between workouts and getting up an hour before tomorrow’s training to throw down some food or a shake definitely isn’t enough to get you adequately fueled up and energized. Even if you have 24 or 48 hours until you train again, it’s vital you get the recovery process started ASAP.
There’s no doubt about it – training can be seriously demanding. While cardio might not cause as much muscle breakdown and tissue damage as weightlifting, the body still goes into a catabolic state – meaning it breaks down tissue and goes into an oxygen debt. These can leave you run down, fatigued and decrease performance in your next session.
If your muscles are still sore, and you feel generally weak and unmotivated how do you think your next session’s going to be – probably pretty hard going?
After training, timing is crucial. You’ve only got a small window of opportunity to get recovery under way. The good thing about training is that it makes your body ultra receptive to nutrients. The main benefit is that nutrient partitioning is increased. Nutrient partitioning refers to what your body does with the food you eat.
Under normal circumstances when you’re at work, sitting on the couch at home or relaxing on vacation, where your food is stored is pretty much determined by your calorie intake. Eat an excess of calories and you’ll store protein carbs and fat mainly as adipose tissue -- body fat basically. However if you’re in a calorie deficit, these nutrients are more likely to be used for energy. Fat and carbs will be stored to be used for energy fairly shortly while protein will go to your muscles.
Training will put you in a state more similar to when you’re in a calorie deficit. Carbs and fat will be used to help repair damaged tissue and replenish your body’s carbohydrate stores and energy levels, while protein will aid in muscle recovery. In short, your body uses nutrients better after a cardio session, so it makes sense to take in some food within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing.