Eating the rights thing at the right time after a ride is crucial to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recover.  This post will cover what the science says as well as what I do after my rides to ensure I start my next workout topped up on energy!

Science!

Nutritionists have been all about “nutrient timing” lately, for good reason, as your body is more apt to accept certain macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) at different phases post-workout.  I have also implemented nutrient timing into my recovery plan with great results.  The way I see it, there are 3 phases of nutrient timing…

Phase I – I NEED CARBOHYDRATES, NOW!

Phase I is between 30-45 minutes post-workout and some have coined it the “opportunity window” or “carbohydrate window”.  My wife coined it the “Prevent Shayne from getting hangry window” ;-).  Basically, this phase is when your body is ravenous and ready to accept carbohydrate and protein.  The best type of carbohydrate and protein to take during this time are rapidly absorbing ones, so think of high glycemic carbohydrates and whey protein.  You should also think of replenishing your water and electrolytes lost during this period; make sure you finish what is in your bottles from your ride too!

Phase II – The Hunger Phase

Phase II usually occurs for me about 1 hour post-workout and is when my body begins to tell me it is hungry.  This phase can last from 1-3 hours and is usually where athletes struggling to lose weight run into trouble.  This phase will usually coincide with a main meal of the day for me (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) so I will already have something planned to eat.  However, if I am driving home after a race I will be sure to pack something nutritionally dense so I don’t succumb to the million fast-food places I drive by.  In this phase, think of nutrient dense foods that also have a good amount of calories and fiber/fat to keep you satiated for longer.

Phase III – Status Quo

IF you did a good job with phase I and II, all systems normal.  Resume normal eating patterns.

BUT, if you are still ravenously hungry and elbows deep in a bag of Doritos, STOP!  Obviously you did not do a good job in Phase I or II and your body is still trying to tell you it needs more nutrients.  Now, the next few situations have ZERO science behind them (I think) and are just what I have seen in my own experiences…

Situation A: Headaches: If you have a headache post-ride that comes on all of a sudden and is not related to tight neck muscles, or dehydration, try and eat a carbohydrate dense food that is mid-high glycemic.  This works for me and will usually get rid of my headache quick.

Situation B: Lethargy: If you are just feeling meh after a ride, try and eat something with a decent amount of healthy fat/protein in it.  Your body still needs to accomplish its daily activities and if the gas gauge is on “E” you will feel like garbage.

What do I do?

Phase I

I immediately down Ultragen as soon as I walk in the door.  Then, if it was a particularly hot day, I will step on the scale (with my kit on!) and see how much water weight I lost through sweat.  I will then consume 1.5x this amount in fluids making sure to get in some electrolytes to push it into my cells.

Phase II

As I said, for me this occurs about 1 hour post-ride and I will usually just eat the next meal of the day be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  BUT, if I am driving home after a race, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are my jam!  The right balance of high glycemic (jelly) and mid-low glycemic carbohydrates (whole wheat bread), with protein, fiber, and fat (peanut butter), plus Calories (~400-500) all wrapped up in a portable delivery system.  You can substitute the PB&J for hummus & avocado, hazelnut spread and almond butter, basically anything that you can stomach that is well balanced and will give you long lasting energy to prevent the “Dorito and ice cream attack”.

Phase III

Nothing out of the ordinary, I try to eat clean, whole, minimally processed, and nutrient dense foods at all times of the day.  You can fuel a high end race car with 87 octane fuel, but don’t expect it to perform to its full capabilities, you know what I’m saying?

Bottom Line

Eat quickly absorbing carbohydrates and proteins immediately post-workout with minimal fat/fiber.  Then, transition to middle of the road foods that are well balanced, but still relatively high in carbs/protein.  Finally, make a conscious effort to not eat garbage the rest of the time.  Find foods that you like that are minimally processed and nutrient dense.  Your body, brain, and legs will thank you.

Further Reading

What should I eat before my ride?

What should I eat during my ride?

Nutrient Timing

For more information on GC Coaching and how we can help you improve your fitness, please visit www.gaffneycyclingcoaching.com

About the Author Shayne Gaffney

Shayne holds a bachelors degree in biology, is a USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, USA Olympic Committee Safe Sport Certified, and a Category 3 road and cyclocross racer. He is the owner of GC Coaching and the creator and director of P2 Cycling. He can be contacted directly via info@gaffneycyclingcoaching.com

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