The top two questions I get as a dietitian who SLAMs are: Have you heard of the _____________ diet? and Should I eat anything after a sweaty SLAM sesh?
Most of you know my answer to the first question…steer clear of fad diets, eat whole foods in moderation, learn to enjoy fruits and veggies, blah, blah, blah. Let’s focus on some answers to the second question – fueling because of and for SLAM.
The short answer is yes. Yes, you should refuel after SLAM. The first 30-60 minutes after an intense workout are referred to as the Recovery Window. This is when the muscles can rebuild and re-energize 2-3x faster. Re-fueling now will help to lessen muscle soreness. This is also the time when you should replenish fluid loss (heavy sweaters can lose up to 2# of sweat or 32 ounces of water).
During the recovery window, you’ll need some carbs and protein. The ideal ratio is 3-4:1 grams carbohydrates to protein. The protein is necessary for muscle-rebuilding and overall recovery. Carbs help stimulate a greater insulin response. The insulin helps to drive carbs and amino acids (protein building blocks) into the cells to do their work. No need to calculate macronutrients and work on the perfect ratio. I shared that info so that you would think I was smart (wink) and to give you an idea of what types of foods you should choose. You’ll need more carbs than protein in your recovery snack or meal.
The timing is an important factor in choosing your recovery meal or snack. Let’s say class gets done at 10:30 am. Your recovery window lasts until 11:30 – which is a reasonable lunch time. But, if you have errands to run or a baby to nurse and put down or you’re a chatty Cathy (that’s me!) and won’t make it home in time for lunch, then you should have a recovery snack. If you’re busting out an early morning run or intense workout, your best option would be to have a well-balanced breakfast that would include some carbohydrates and protein – such as oatmeal with berries and plain yogurt (one of my faves) or scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast. Boom. All the right ratios and lots of good nutrients headed to those muscles.
What would be a good snack? Remember that snacks are not treats. Treats are special foods you enjoy on occasion such as a flavored latte or ice cream or Halloween candy. Snacks can be used for recovery refueling or a hold-you-over until the next meal. Here are some nutritious snacks that will help to max out your recovery window:
- Banana or pretzels with peanut butter
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Plain Greek yogurt and berries
- String cheese and Triscuts
- Almonds and raisins
- Lara Bar
- Veggies and hummus
- Homemade energy bites
- Roasted chickpeas
- Small smoothie with 1/2 banana, greens, and plain yogurt
Above I mentioned that the short answer to the refueling question is yes – eat something after your sweaty SLAM sesh. The longer answer includes overall recovery. Through recovery we become stronger and healthier. Our fitness gain potential is largely determined by how adequately we let our bodies recover. Adequate recovery includes multiple components; we will focus on three.
- Hydration. Not only do you need to replenish fluid lost through sweat and exhalation, but you to start workouts from a place of hydration. Most active mamas need at least 2-3L of plain water a day. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you need at least a gallon (4L) a day. If you’re not there, figure out how much you are taking in and start increasing by 10-20 ounces per day per week until you reach your goal.
- Clean Eating. Junk In = Junk Out. An overall nutritious diet will aid your body in recovering consistently and quickly. Clean eating clearly has levels and can get very “technical.” But, to put it simply, eat more food that is found in the natural state rather than an overly processed state. Enjoy lots of vegetables, fruits, high quality proteins, whole grains and enjoy small amounts of packaged and processed food. These foods provide quality nutrients that help you recover – vitamins, minerals, and and antioxidants. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
- Rest. I’m gonna go ahead and put this out there for the five of you reading this who consistently get a solid night’s rest routinely. For everyone else – this is something to strive for and enjoy it on the rarity it happens. Sleep does a body good. You know how good you feel when you get a solid 7-9 hours (or you remember how good that felt once upon a time…). Quality sleep is the magic link in recovery. Until you can confidently add that to your daily routine, focus on the other aspects of recovery to max out what you can. 😉
Adequate recovery is the secret weapon in every Mamathlete’s tool box. Focusing on maxing out your recovery window and attending to the other aspects of recovery will help you realize your fitness potential. Nevermind the sleep aspect for now, tired mama. Instead, make sure you refuel after each intense, sweaty, and fun SLAM class!