An often overlooked element of successful triathlon training is post-exercise nutrition. Athletes always think about eating and hydrating properly before and during a training session, but replenishing yourself after a tough workout is important as well. When you finish a workout, your body faces three recovery challenges: muscle tissue damage, fluid loss, and glycogen loss in the muscles. Consuming the right nutrients in the right amounts, will help you enjoy a faster recovery than normal.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to replenish what you burn. If you’ve just pushed yourself hard for an hour and a half, you’re obviously going to have more nutrients to replace than if you went for an easy jog for 25 minutes. Rehydrating yourself is imperative to counteract the fluid loss.
Replenishing fluids won’t necessarily help your body repair muscle tissue damage or replace its lost glycogen. Consuming carbohydrates within an hour or so of finishing your workout is a great way to restock your body’s glycogen. Your body is much more receptive to nutrients in this time frame, and can replenish glycogen at about twice the normal rate.
Also in that first hour, you should take in a small amount of protein. This will jump-start the muscle recovery process. To much protein though will actually inhibit the glycogen replenishment process. A good ratio is about 4:1 carbohydrates to protein. Avoid fats if at all possible, as they have the opposite effect, slowing your muscle recovery. Oftentimes, your appetite will be suppressed after an intense workout. If you don’t feel like eating, it’s a good idea to consume a sports drink with protein in it.