Do you want to get fit faster? The key is giving your body the right nutrients at the right time.
The process of training and getting fitter is is similar to renovating a house.
When renovating a house, you get to work pulling out the current fittings and knocking down some walls, you might change the flow of the room, before getting new materials and rebuilding as desired.
The process of training is the tearing down part. Exercise breaks down muscles and stresses metabolic systems. This creates the potential for a new and improved system.
But this does not happen automatically. Just like you need to buy new fittings for your new kitchen, you have to provide your body with the right ingredients so your muscles and metabolic systems can rebuild. This is often referred to as recovery nutrition.
During an endurance training programme, there is a myriad of adaptations that you are trying to create, but from a nutritional perspective, there are two key pathways.
First of all, and perhaps one that slips slightly under the radar, is the storage and use of your body's favourite fuel - carbohydrates.
After a training session that has depleted your carbohydrate stores (for example your long weekend ride), your body will be primed to increase its ability to store and utilise these carbohydrates. If you foster this adaptation by consuming enough carbs after exercise on a consistent basis, you will build a larger and more efficient petrol tank (which improves your fitness).
However if you fail to give it enough/any carbohydrates, your body will not adapt as much as it could have, and you won't get as fit. In fact, you are likely to feel more fatigued, and get poorer training outcomes in the future.
So carbohydrates get first mention in this post because in terms of training for the Taupo Cycle Challenge, they are essential. However we must not forget about protein.
The process of exercise, be it strength training or endurance cycling, breaks down your muscles. This provides your body with the opportunity to rebuild in a way that is better suited to the training that you are doing. If you provide the right amount of protein soon after exercise, muscle fibres will be rebuilt bigger, stronger and better adapted to the exercise you do.
Exercise primes your body to adapt to exercise, but if the right ingredients are not provided in the recovery period, then this adaptation will not be as great as it could have.
Training provides a series of incremental gains, and good recovery practises amplify those incremental games. If you consistently put effort into your recovery as well as your training, you will reap the rewards and get fitter faster.
OK got it, but what does this look in reality
The following are some actions that you can take to optimise recovery:
Plan recovery when you are planning training. It's hard to make good decisions when you are exhausted.
A nutritionally complete recovery meal will include
Protein (meat, eggs, daiy, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds)
Carbohydrates (Rice, pasta, bread, potato, kumara, cereal, taro, yam, crackers etc)
Something from a plant - vegetables, fruit
Egg and salad sandwich
Cereal, milk, yoghurt, fruit
Nuts, seeds, dried fruit mix
Nut bar and fruit
Don't stress about recovery nutrition when training is not so intense and less than 90 minutes or so. Just aim to have 3 nutritionally complete meals (carbohydrates, protein, fruits/vegetables) and some snacks throughout the day.
You don't need to stress about getting a recovery snack in straight away. The window of time you have to do this is reasonably large, but do make sure that the snack is additional to your regular eating, and it just doesn't take the place of another meal e.g. lunch.