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The importance of protein for recovery and nutrition planning

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Looking Good, Feeling Great

Author: Will Mbanga, Posted: Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 08:00

Whatever your desired outcome or performance goals, what you eat, even on recovery days, has an impact on progress. The key to reaching these goals is to ‘begin with the end in mind’. What are you hoping to achieve?

Having said that, I must address the elephant in the room – what about ‘cheat meals’? My main piece of advice when it comes to diet and nutrition, is that you need to let go of guilt, otherwise you will always be unhappy.

Of course, the ideal is to have the discipline to eat ‘clean’ forever, but if the thought of never eating another piece of cake, pizza or whatever your weakness is makes you break out in a cold sweat – relax!

While it is important to use rest days as a time for physiological recovery and repair, depriving yourself of the odd ‘naughty’ snack can make your wellness journey much less enjoyable. Life’s too short!

Once you understand your body’s nutritional needs in line with your goals and training intensity, the next step is understanding what you need to eat to address your energy and recovery needs.

An holistic nutrition plan will take into account intake of the three main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. If your goal is to build muscle, get stronger or improve athletic performance, protein intake is an essential focus area in your nutrition plan.

Are protein supplements beneficial for active recovery?

If you’re only exercising a few days a week, protein is best sourced from your regular diet. Many of these shakes can be high in calories and sugar which, if not accounted for, can lead to exceeding your dietary requirement.

Where you might have trouble reaching your recommended protein level or if you have a very intense training schedule, a protein shake can ensure that muscle protein levels are where they need to be.

Because protein is so important to muscle growth and repair, you should consume the same amount as on training days. For muscle growth, this equates to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

For athletic people wanting to build muscle and lose fat, the research suggests that a slightly higher protein intake of 2.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is more beneficial.

Outside of nutrition, there are some other key elements you can include in your overall training strategy to help support muscle recovery and repair. These include:
Recovery: learn your biorhythms and plan your training to allow for maximal recovery, as this is where your all-important ‘gains’ take place. As a general rule, the higher the intensity, the longer the recovery period required.
Self Myofascial Release (SMR): – foam rolling increases mobility and loosens muscle tissue.
Sleep: good quality and a good amount of sleep is an important part of recovery, as glycogen stores are replenished during sleep, fueling muscle growth and repair.
Hydration: adequate water levels are critical to reducing muscle soreness, lubricating joints and transporting nutrients to recovering muscle tissue.

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