Nutritional recovery is critical to performance. Failure to replenish fluids and fuel after exercise can quickly lead to aching muscles, weariness, and underperformance at your next workout. Here’s how to ensure complete healing after a strenuous pool session:
First and foremost, replace fluids.
Your muscles will not be able to heal entirely until your cells are sufficiently hydrated. So make drinking a priority – begin drinking while stretching, before showering. The precise amount you require depends on how dehydrated you are after swimming. The ‘pee test’ (see chart below) will tell you how dehydrated you are, but you should also weigh yourself before and after exercise. Drink 600 – 750 ml of liquids (e.g. water, diluted juice or squash, milk – but not all at once) for every 0.5 kg (1 lb approx) of body weight decreased.
Drink little and often – I recommend 100 – 150 ml every 10 or 15 minutes for the next hour or two, or until your urine is pale yellow.
Priority number two: refuel
You must replenish the fuel (carbs) that you have depleted, otherwise you may feel sore, achy, and exhausted throughout your next session.
Use the 30-minute window to your advantage:
This is when your muscles replenish their energy levels more quickly than usual. The sooner you feed your muscles glucose and protein after exercise, the faster they will heal and rebuild. So keep a recovery drink or snack in your kit bag or in the car to munch on the way home.
Consume carbs with protein: To aid in body repair and rebuilding, consume carbs with protein in a 3: 1 ratio. Ideally, you should consume about 20g of protein every day. This can be accomplished by the consumption of a beverage (milk) or through the consumption of food (see below). There is no need for commercial recovery drinks.
Choose a milk beverage:
Milk, flavoured milk, and milk shakes are near-ideal recovery beverages. According to research, all forms of milk after workout help with fuel recovery, muscle gain, and even muscle discomfort. According to recent studies, they also assist rehydrate the body more effectively than sports drinks.
Here are some suggestions for post-workout snacks that include 20 g of protein:
- 500ml of milk or milkshake plus a banana
- 250ml milk or milkshake plus 2 pots of fruit yoghurt
- 500ml milk or milkshake plus an oat-based bar or flapjack
- 200ml milk or milkshake plus 1 pot yoghurt plus 1 slice of toast and honey
- Homemade milk shake: Blend 1 cup milk, 1 banana, 1 pot yogurt, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, 1 scoop chocolate milkshake powder and 6 to 8 ice cubes
- Fruit yoghurt smoothie: whizz together 2 pots of yoghurt, 1 banana or a handful or berries and 150ml fruit juice in a blender
- 50g nuts (e.g. almonds or cashews) plus 2 pots of yoghurt