Recipes for recovery: building muscles for strength and endurance
Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, a nutritionally dense, whole-foods based diet is fundamental to achieve optimal performance. Eating the right foods helps to increase energy and endurance levels, and aid in faster post-exercise recovery. Just what foods and what nutrients constitute the ‘right’ selections? Let’s first break down the three main macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat, and then dive into a closer look at specific micronutrients, such as vitamin and mineral support.
One of the main sources of fuel used during exercise is carbohydrate in the form of glucose, which is stored in our muscles as glycogen. When we exercise, glycogen is released from our muscle stores and will provide enough energy for roughly 60-90 minutes of exercise (Australian Sports Commission, 2017). The types of carbohydrates you consume should be from complex sources, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Examples include apples, bananas, quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, white/red potatoes, turnips, beets, squash and leafy green vegetables. Leafy green veggies, such as collard greens and kale, also contain magnesium, a mineral that helps to promote relaxation of muscles—great for post-exercise recovery!
Protein is broken down into amino acids, which help to rebuild muscle following exercise. Protein can also be used as a source of fuel for physical activity, especially when carbohydrate intake is lower in comparison. It is best to consume a multitude of lean proteins, including chicken, turkey, lean mince, eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds. Athletes and those who train heavily need approximately 1.2-1.6 grams per kg of body weight, according to Nutrition Australia (2009).
Fat provides fuel for a long duration, such as long distance running or marathon running. It is important to eat moderate amounts of healthy fats. The best foods, high in healthy fats include:
- Fish (cold water, oily, small fish, such as sardines or mackerel, is ideal)
- Flax seeds or chia seeds (high in omega 3 fatty acids, a great anti-inflammatory compound)
- Nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts)
Vitamins and minerals to support performance
- Calcium: crucial for muscle contraction and energy metabolism. The best food sources include salmon, sardines, cheese, almonds, sesame seeds, yoghurt, dark leafy green vegetables.
- Iron: iron compromises haemoglobin, an oxygen-transporting compound. Our body cells require oxygen to produce energy, thus, insufficient iron stores lead to fatigue and muscular weakness. Great food sources include lean red meats (e.g. venison, kangaroo, lamb, lean beef), sardines, dried apricots, prunes, beets, and spinach.
- Vitamin D: helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Food sources include oily fish, egg yolks, olive oil, yoghurt, sunflower seeds, and sunshine!
- B12: Converts food into energy and enhances communication between the brain and body muscles. Food sources include eggs, meat, and offal.
- Magnesium: helps to balance muscle contractions, and plays a major role in energy production on a cellular level; reduces muscle fatigue and cramping. The best foods include green leafy vegetables, garlic, seeds, and nuts.
- Riboflavin (B2): Aids in the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fat, along with vitamin B6. Best sources include spinach, eggs, chicken and corn.
- Zinc: Helps your produce to produce testosterone, a muscle-building hormone. Zinc also boosts your immune system, supports fertility, and helps the body to recover from exercise more efficiently.
If you’re keen to learn how to fuel up your body with the right nutrition while training for Sydney’s City2Surf event, come in and speak with our naturopath Amanda Harasym and see how your diet can be adapted to meet your specific training needs. Call 9252 2225 to book today.
Sports Nutrition Australia (2009). Sports nutrition. Retrieved from http:// http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/sports-nutrition.
Australian Sports Commission (2017). Protein. Retrieved from http:// https://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/sports_nutrition/fact_sheets/protein_-_how_much.