The NY Times columnist Gina Kolata writes for the Fitness & Nutrition section of the paper, but her calling is probably to join the popular Discovery show Mythbusters. I've discussed her articles about muscle cramps and muscle fatigue, and now she's written about "recovery foods".
I've written about the importance of how much you eat here, and about how "well" you eat here. I still stand by everything I wrote in those posts, but there is one area where it might be good for me to "Think a Second Time." What area is that? It's where I rattle off optimal percentages of carbohydrates vs proteins vs fats. In my previous post, I recommended following a 60-20-20 balance, but Ms. Kolata's new article has me questioning whether I should really be so bold as to put specific numbers to the amounts.
As Gina continues to show in her articles, it can be dangerous to assume any of the "common knowledge" associated with what we know about training. Much of it isn't based on rigorous science. At best, it's based on hunches that are "right enough" to withstand most armchair attacks on them. That and as soon as something becomes marketable, there are any number of companies willing to throw some bogus statistics out and sell you a product. (That's not just a "recovery foods" issue, though. That's a "capitalism" issue.)
It turns out that there aren't much in the way of scientific studies to show that regular athletes need to eat so many carbos so long after exercising. And that's not surprising, really. There's no magic number of glasses of water we need to drink, either. And if you're only doing one workout a day, the article argues that just eating your regular meals will be enough to get you fully recovered. The only people who need to worry about eating optimally right after a workout are elite athletes...
...but wait, isn't that who we're talking about here? Isn't this blog about becoming an elite athlete? Yes, it is, so this is my advice to you. Even if you're not an elite athlete yet in terms of performance, start training like one today. Prepare food to eat after a workout, when your body is ready to absorb the amino acids and glycogen it's recently lost. But keep two things in mind when you do this.
First, understand where this ranks on your list of priorities. There are a number of things that should be more important than this post-workout snack, especially if you're only training once a day. If you're training twice, it should go up in importance. Second, you don't need to go out and buy any special concoction to get the benefits of this snack. Particularly not at $4/energy bar. A half a PB & J sandwich will do the trick just as well!