Protein is a no brainer but did you know not all proteins are created equal? It is made up of building blocks (amino acids) and some of these are labelled as essential, meaning our body doesn't make these so we need to get them from food. Animal products i.e. dairy are considered "complete" as they contain all essential amino acids. How does this help? Essential amino acids play a large role in the recovery process and are required for the rebuilding of muscle tissue. If you are going for a dairy-free protein option ensure you combine different sources to get a complete protein as there are few sources that contain them all. We recommend consuming ~20g of protein in the 30 mins after you finish exercising, however, it is also super important to spread your intake out over the day, this means slotting it into every meal.
"Complete" protein suggestions:
• Dairy - milk, cheese and yoghurt
• Lean meat or seafood
• Whey Protein Concentrate
• Tofu and other soy-based products
• Chia seeds, quinoa, hempseed and amaranth
Related article: How To Get More Protein Into Your Diet
Whole grains (think the natural form of carbs) are really important to recovery because they refuel muscles and support gut health. Recovery doesn't actually start until your post-exercise recovery choice gets you out of the calorie deficit exercise causes. In other words, energy is required and enough of it. This is where whole grains provide a good carbohydrate source for replacing muscle glycogen (refuelling muscles), satisfying hunger and keeping that energy intake high enough to support recovery. They also contain plenty of fibre to aid digestion, they feed our good gut bacteria to support overall health and provide plenty of vitamins and minerals (also a massive part of recovery).
Simple whole grain swap suggestions:
• Regular oats to "old fashioned" rolled oats or steel-cut oats
• Pasta and rice to brown pasta and rice
• Replace or combine whole-wheat flour with regular flour in baking
• Pretzels to popcorn (go easy on the additions)
Dark Fruit & Veg
Fruits and vegetables are essential to recovery, they not only provide good energy but are also dense in vitamins and minerals. These are key from everything to absorption of nutrients, helping energy levels and aiding muscle repair. Remember that the more exercise you do the higher your requirements will be for vitamins and minerals, and failing to meet these requirements usually comes with negative consequences such as injury and fatigue. Aim for the darker options as these tend to contain higher levels of nutrients.
• Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale & silverbeet.
• Berries: Blackcurrants, blackberries & blueberries.
Blackcurrants are a natural jackpot with the deep purple colour creating a very concentrated source of anthocyanins (an antioxidant) and high levels of Vitamin C. How does this help recovery? The science points to an increase in blood flow around the body, aiding the clearance of lactic acid and other waste products from muscles. It also supports immunity and helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. We have a product called PURE Blackcurrant Recovery which is 100% New Zealand freeze-dried blackcurrants. Each serving (1 tsp) contains over 30 blackcurrants and we recommend 1-2 servings per day depending on exercise load.
Ideas for including blackcurrant into your diet:
• Place into a bottle of water and shake
• Add to a warm lemon and honey drink
• Mix into yoghurt or porridge for breakfast
• Add to a smoothie
Author: Marewa Sutherland
Marewa Sutherland is a qualified Sports & Exercise Nutritionist (BAppSc, University of Otago) and co-founder of PURE Sports Nutrition.