by Anne Francis

Cyclist in maximum effort in a road outdoors

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned endurance athlete, cyclists need to know how to optimize recovery. Endurance athletes have a 30-minute recovery window post-workout for replenishing the glycogen stores depleted by a hard workout. So instead of lounging around in your chamois sipping a beer, here’s how you can optimize your recovery after a hard ride.

One of the first things a cyclists should do, at least within half an hour after their ride, is eat: between 100 and 300 calories in a mix of carbs and protein (about 3:1 or 4:1 carbs to protein). Consuming a carbohydrate-rich snack within 30 minutes after your workout will dramatically improve your recovery, decreasing muscle soreness so you can get on with your day, and also be ready for your next ride.

When you ride hard or long, you sustain tiny tears to your muscles. Your metabolic rate remains elevated for about 30 minutes afterwards, which speeds muscle repair. After that, your muscles will be much slower to recover without proper nutrition.

Some great post-race snacks include:

Healthy snack of hummus dip with pita bread slices and vegetables

– A bagel with peanut butter
– Banana or some blueberries with yogurt
– Whole-grain toast with hummus

A little protein is recommended, since it will help kick-start the muscle-repair process, but too much could interfere with the body’s absorption of carbohydrate.

Some recovery drinks can be helpful for replacing carbs, especially if you don’t always feel like eating right after a workout. Just read the label to make sure they’re not loaded with refined sugar.

The time to up your protein intake is later, within two or three hours after your ride. Some ideas for your recovery meal:

Vegetable stew with red beans. Studio photo

– Salad with shrimp, chicken or steak
– Chili
– Eggs with avocado
– Tuna salad sandwich

The benefits of observing this 30-minute window extends well beyond the few hours after your workout, and making it a habit will affect your whole training plan in a positive way. It’s really important to be fully recovered for your next workout if you are trying to improve your sprint, endurance or climbing. And failing to follow the 30-minute window could leave you not only with lingering soreness, but more prone to injury.

Though ideally real food is preferred over shakes and bars, those can be good when you’re travelling, since they’re convenient and packable. Once again, read the label to make sure they’re not packed high in processed sugar or unpronounceable chemicals.

A version of this article first appeared on Canadian Running Magazine.

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