"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Most Important Meal of YOUR Day

We've been taught since we were little kids that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's the meal that gets you going and fuels your day, right? What about as a runner, your most important meal of the day is your post-run meal.

Studies have shown that the body has an increased ability to convert blood sugar to glycogen in the 15-30 minutes immediately following a workout. This ability gradually decreases until approximately two hours after your workout, when the conversion process rate returns to normal. Not only is the replenishment of glycogen essential to your training, but also to your recovery.

What foods are best for maximum replenishment and recovery?

Think about the cubicle-worker swamped with projects. They all have deadlines. The poor employee works feverishly to try to make progress on all of them but despite his/her best efforts each project is mediocre at best. It's not that the employee isn't skilled enough to handle each project. Quite the contrary. There was just too much going on all at once to give the proper attention to the most important projects.

Despite what you may see on the food tables at the end of your race, shoving a bagel covered in peanut butter in your mouth and then following it up with a handful of tortilla chips and salsa, a chocolate chip granola bar and finally some oranges and bananas is going to force your body in the same position as the employee with too many projects on which to focus.

If replenishment and recovery is your focus, then give your body every chance to do this job well. Don't expect the body to digest a hodgepodge of complex foods while also trying to maximize the glycogen conversion process. It's won't happen.

For glycogen stores to be replenished after an intense workout, the body's blood sugar levels must first return to normal. Only then can the blood sugar-to-glycogen conversion take place. Fruit is perhaps the most perfect catalyst for helping replenish the body's blood sugar levels. It is simple and easy to digest and breakdown and gets the nutrients to the body quicker than a bagel or bar.

Bananas are are a rich source of carbohydrates, calories and water. They also contain potassium and magnesium, two electrolytes lost through sweating, and even calcium and protein, which are vital to muscle repair. Oranges also contain calcium and potassium and provide sufficient amounts of vitamin C. Strawberries (which provide even more Vitamin C per serving than oranges) contain a variety of vitamins and antioxidants in addition to fiber, which can affect blood sugar levels. Combine all three of these fruits into a smoothie (with or without any other fruits you desire) and you have a perfect post-run meal. No dairy, refined sugars or any other additives are needed and will, in fact, diminish the effects of your fruit.

If replenishing your body and maximizing the recovery process is your goal, treat yourself to a cold fruit smoothie. it will be the most important meal of your day.

(Note: For additional reading, FoodnSport.com has an excellent two-part discussion on nutrition and athletic recovery. Part I. Part II)

1 comment:

AJ said...

When we consider the limited amount of time we have during this "glycogen window," it is clear why fruit is the best--and only--option for glycogen stores. Any other form of carbohydrates would just be too complex to break down soon enough. Starch from grains and potatoes takes 2-3 hours just to digest! Window missed.