Get Stronger and Leaner With Holistic Nutrition
By BRENDAN BRAZIER
We're not all natural-born athletes. Although I always aspired to be a pro athlete, I kept hitting the same roadblock: I wasn't good at any sports. I didn't have enough fast-twitch muscles fibers to be fast or enough endurance to go long. Never one to give up, I knew to go faster and further I'd have to get stronger and leaner. It wasn't long before I realized that recovery had the single largest impact on my performance and that what I ate significantly affected my recovery time. Shifting toward clean, plant-based nutrition allowed me to forge a seven-year career as an Ironman triathlete. Not bad for someone who wasn't born to be an athlete!
Recovery: The Secret to Getting Stronger and Leaner
If you feel like you've hit a plateau in performance, skill or body composition, it's important to pay attention to how you're recovering from your workouts. During your workout, you're tearing apart muscle tissue. If you fail to properly refuel after exercise, your body is more likely to stay stuck, neither building muscle nor getting better.
Choosing nutrient-dense foods can accelerate recovery so that you can schedule workouts closer together and elevate your performance. To get the most from your efforts, pay special attention to muscle-tissue repair, protein synthesis, hormonal support and inflammation management.
Muscle-Glycogen Replenishment, Muscle-Tissue Repair and Protein Synthesis
When you work out for longer than one hour, your body depletes the level of glucose in your blood and must then turn to glycogen -- carbohydrates stored in your liver and muscle tissue -- to fuel your engine. Replenishing muscle glycogen with a 4-to-1 carbohydrate-to-protein snack will help you push hard the following day.
Once your muscle glycogen has been replenished, your body can start to repair muscle tissue and begin synthesizing new proteins. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are especially important post-workout: They act as signaling molecules that stimulate protein synthesis. Within an hour of exercise, I consume a meal that is high in plant-based proteins, such as nuts, seeds, beans or organic soy.
Although exercise is a complementary stress, it still physically stresses the body and has the potential to elevate the stress hormone cortisol. Consuming minimally processed foods while avoiding uncomplementary stress (such as work stress), will help reduce cortisol levels. Some relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga can also be helpful.
Inflammation is your body's way of healing from the microscopic tears in the muscles and increased cortisol levels that exercise has caused. Inflammation is necessary, but it does increase your recovery time because of muscle soreness and stiffness. By incorporating more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids,you can reduce inflammation. Saturated and trans fats, as well as highly processed foods, can actually increase inflammation.
Here’s a recipe for a smoothie that will help you recover from your workout:
Raspberry Recovery Smoothie
(For full nutritional information, here is a link to the recipe we created in MyPlate).
Prep time: 2 minutes
Special equipment: high-speed blender
* 1 serving plant-based protein like Vega Sport Performance Protein Vanilla
* 1/2 frozen banana
* 1 tablespoon nut butter
* 1/2 cup raspberries
* 1 1/2 cups almond milk
* cinnamon (optional)
1. In a blender, combine all the ingredients.
2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
3. Enjoy and recover!
Readers -- How often do you work out? Every day? Several times a week? What steps do you take to recover from a hard workout? Share your comments below and let us know.
Brendan Brazier is a former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He is now a successful performance-nutrition consultant, best-selling author of the Thrive book series, formulator of the award-winning line of plant-based Vega nutritional products and creator of Thrive Forward, an online video series designed to inspire and educate people about plant-based nutrition. Brendan also supports and curates content at Fuel Your Better, a free sports nutritional platform that serves as a resource for athletes looking to get over their nutrition hurdles.