You've had an intense session of intervals or drills. All after a long day of school or work. You're tired on the commute home but want to eat before bed without overdoing it. How do you recover with bedtime looming?
Carbohydrates - Quick and Simple
Having some simple carbohydrates is a good way to ensure you're refuelled for the next day and are eating enough to match your energy demands - a key thing for young athletes (Meyer et al., 2007). These are generally sugary, low-fibre options, but it could be as simple as having some fruit packed in Tupperware, juice, or - if a very intense session - a sports drink may benefit you. Don’t forget fluids. Use the urine colour scale to help. Aim to get these within 30-60 minutes of finishing training but prioritise eating and drinking enough. Carbs and fluids are crucial for subsequent performance (McCartney et al., 2017 – although in over-18s, these are still important parts of recovery).
Lean Protein - A Champion's Essential
Protein aids muscle growth and repair. Having protein with carbohydrates after a session will help your muscles recover. For young athletes, lean protein sources should be consumed wherever possible (Desbrow et al., 2014). Lean meats (skinless chicken breast, pork, ham), fish (tinned tuna, salmon) or dairy (milk, yogurt) are good sources.
Tips for Your Travels
When travelling home from training, you could:
- Have prepared something already - fruit or juices, sports drink, or recovery shake (homemade or supplement if needed).
- Research local shops and see what they have to offer.
- Store supplies at home. If the commute isn't too far and you're not immediately hungry, you could wait for the short journey home and grab some leftovers or make a quick snack. Convenience doesn't have to mean compromise!
Some practical examples:
- Carbs as a 'base' - pasta, bread for sandwiches, rice, potatoes, couscous, fruit and/or juices (apple, orange etc).
- Protein - Chicken and tomato pasta bake, stir fry (lean meats or vegetarian, try tofu or quorn), a tuna sandwich, roasted potato or sweet potato with tuna or cottage cheese and salad. You could prepare these ready to eat at home or takesome with you for after training.
- Meal deals - e.g. a tuna, chicken or ham sandwich and/or salads. If training was intense and you're struggling with appetite, something is better than nothing, like a fruit mix, juice, or yogurt/milk drink.
- Milk - an ideal recovery drink for young athletes. Milk provides protein, carbohydrates and calcium for bone growth and development! You can buy a pint of milk in any shop nowadays and could have it in a cool bag ready to drink on the way home.
- Recovery shakes - homemade with some milk and fruit to whichever taste and consistency you like. You could add mango, strawberries, blueberries - any fruit or veg really! Something as simple as 350-400 ml milk and 100 g fresh or frozen fruit might be a good start. Experiment with it!
Recovery is key after a tough evening session. Getting in some quick carbohydrates and protein will help you feel fresh next time around. Convenience doesn't have to mean compromise. The biggest thing is eating enough! Prioritise recovery and happy eating!
Liam Oliver, Nutrition Student.
Desbrow, B., Mccormack, J., Burke, L., Cox, G., Fallon, K., Hislop, M., ... Leveritt, M. (2014). Sports Dietitians Australia position statement: Sports nutrition for the adolescent athlete. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24(5), 570-84.
McCartney, D., Desbrow, B., & Irwin, C. (2017). Post-exercise Ingestion of Carbohydrate, Protein and Water: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis for Effects on Subsequent Athletic Performance. Sports Medicine, 1-30.
Meyer, Flavia, O'Connor, Helen, & Shirreffs, Susan M. (2007). Nutrition for the young athlete. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25, S73.