Advice from our peformance nutritionaist Daniel Davey on the best post-workout snack and on adding salt to your diet.
QUESTION: What's an example of a post-workout snack for somebody who wants to lose bodyfat?
The post-workout recovery meal has become one of the most talked about nutrition topics in recent years, particularly by those aiming to get in better shape by reducing fat or gaining muscle.
The awareness around this particular meal is primarily as a result of well-placed advertisements by nutrition supplement companies to sell products. There is no question that for elite athletes and for those who train regularly, an appropriate recovery meal has a vast array of benefits. However, for those just moderately or socially active and aiming to lose some body fat, the post-workout recovery meal is of much less significance.
True, you should not eat any old junk, but the notion that your muscles are going to 'shrink' or something drastic is going to happen to your body because you don't eat immediately after your workout is not true.
Following your training the aim should be to have water to rehydrate and a snack to stabilise your blood sugar (energy levels), but the need for a 'shake', sports drink, or 'recovery bar' is not essential. Bring a light snack with you like fresh fruit and nuts, or two boiled eggs and an apple. These are convenient and transportable, and will help to curb your hunger until you are able to prepare a larger meal.
QUESTION: Is adding salt to your food as bad as people are led to believe?
For many years we have been led to believe salt is a food additive that should be avoided or minimised due to a greater risk of hypertension, stroke and heart attacks.
However, recent evidence suggests salt is not as bad for us as first thought. For example, a meta-analysis (a reanalysis and summary of a lot of other studies) published in the American Journal of Hypertension found no significant evidence that reducing salt intake will decrease the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.
Irrespective of this finding, I am not suggesting that people should go out of their way to use more salt.
The analysis simple states that reducing salt intake didn't reduce the risk of ill health.
Regular readers will appreciate that I only advocate eating minimally processed foods that don't contain added sugars, preservatives (including salt) and processed fats, hence adding some salt to your foods for taste is unlikely to be a risk for your health.
This is particularly true for people who consume a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables who are therefore taking in high amounts of potassium. Potassium is a key electrolyte that offsets the effects of the sodium present in salt, and reduces the ill-effects of salt intake on blood pressure in particular.
In addition, for people who exercise, sodium is lost through sweating – more examples of why regular exercise and fresh, whole foods are so important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
QUESTION: I am an athlete returning from injury, are there changes I need to make to my diet and are there any specific foods I should eat?
Nutrition should not be overlooked for injured athletes and there are a number of key changes an athlete must make when aiming to maximise the rate of recovery.
First, it is imperative that the athlete does not over- or under-eat during the stages of recovery. The body must have sufficient energy and nutrients to facilitate repair while also minimising the loss of muscle mass which can occur from under-nutrition and reduced levels of training.
While adequate energy and nutrient intake is important to facilitate recovery, avoiding overeating, and poor food choices is probably more relevant to most athletes. Second, some athletes may feel loss of motivation to maintain good eating habits due to the injury and may underestimate the influence nutrition can have on recovery.
Third, with regard to general nutrition, there should be a significant reduction in carbohydrates and a greater focus on quality protein sources and healthy fats. This is because the athlete is not as active which in turn reduces the need for carbohydrate as a fuel, whereas a slightly higher protein intake can help to retain muscle mass.
Finally, there are specific foods that may speed up the recovery process. For example, essential fatty acids – in particular omega-3 EPA and DHA – reduce levels of inflammation, whereas turmeric, ginger, garlic, pineapple, pomegranate, green tea and other fresh vegetables herbs and spices will also be vital in reducing inflammation and supporting the healing process.
- Daniel Davey BSc MSc, CSCS, NEHS is a performance nutritionist - twitter: @foodflicker