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TRIA Orthopaedic Center Your Cycling Blog

How to Recover After A Long Bike Ride

June 14, 2012

With the Menomonie Gran Fondo this past Saturday, we thought it would be nice to a deeper look at how you can recover once you are done with a ride like that.

By:  Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Nutritionist

MyOptumHealth.com

Congratulations! You just finished a long and challenging ride. But wait! Don’t abandon your nutrition needs just yet. The right mix of recovery foods will go a long way to helping you feel less sore, less stiff, and less tired in the hours and days that follow. A smart nutrition strategy includes a follow-up plan that will re-feed your glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue. Make sure you follow these five tips for prime recovery:

Timing Counts

The minutes immediately after you’re off the bike (when there is increased blood flow to your muscles) is when your body is most receptive to refueling.

  • Aim to eat within 15 to 30 minutes, and do not wait longer than 45 minutes.This is essential!
  • Then continue to eat at regular intervals for the next 24 hours to keep up replenishment.

Carbs Are Key, Protein Secondary

Carbs are the most important recovery nutrient. They stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscle and restock glycogen stores.

  • Aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of carb per kilogram of body weight in the first 45 minutes. Keep this up for about four hours after the event, or until you eat a larger meal.
  • For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, eat 70 to 100 grams of carbs per hour. One gram of carb has four calories, so that translates to about 300 to 400 calories of carbs as soon as possible after you get off the bike. You can break it up by having something 15 minutes after you stop, and again in another 15 to 30 minutes.
  • For the following 24 hours, your carb intake should be about six to 10 grams per kg of body weight (450-750 grams of carb for a 150 pound person).
  • Adding some protein to your carb can improve your recovery, but don’t overdo the protein (or fat) in the first couple hours, as that can slow the absorption of the carbs.

Smart Recovery Meal Ideas

Here are some meal/snack ideas that contain about 70 to 80 grams of carbs and eight to 15 grams of protein:

  • Large fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt
  • Peanut butter sandwich and large carton of juice
  • Bagel and yogurt
  • 16 oz 100% juice and two ounces of low-fat cheese
  • Chocolate milk and a one or two granola bars
  • ¼ cup raisins, a large banana, and 16 oz. milk
  • Large baked potato and cottage cheese
  • Recovery drink with mostly carbs and nine to 10 grams of protein

Save higher protein intakes until at least two hours after the event. This could include chicken breast, fish, lean steak, high protein drink, etc.

Replace Fluids and Electrolytes

Replacing fluids lost by sweating is critical in order to prevent dehydration.

  • Your goal will be to drink on schedule during your ride and lose no more than 2 percent of your body weight (three pounds for a 150 pound person).
  • During training, practice weighing yourself before and after to get a sense of how much fluid you lose. For every pound lost, you need to drink 16 oz of fluid.
  • A pound of sweat contains about 90mg of potassium and 400 to 700mg of sodium.
  • As long as your recovery food or drink contains some salt or potassium, you don’t need anything special. One banana has 350 mg. Even foods like a cup of yogurt (520mg), large potato (800mg), cup of OJ (475mg), etc have plenty of potassium.
  • Sodium can also be found in most foods, from bagels and sandwiches to dairy and granola bars – just don’t choose low-sodium foods after the ride and you should be fine!
  • Don’t rely on sports drinks for potassium unless they specifically have it included. Check labels for sodium, as they vary.

With this recovery plan in place, you’ll be ready for another long ride in no time!

Resources

Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100(12):1543-1556.

Hargreaves M, Hawley JA, Jeukendrup A. Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: Effects on metabolism and performance. J Sports Sci. 2004;22(1):31-38.

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