Food & Fitness After 50: Recovery After Hard Exercise

iStock-Older couple runningMany folks over the age of 50 are incredibility active: pickleball, tennis, swimming, running, hiking, and cycling are all popular with the 50+ crowd. I am often asked about hydration and recovery strategies and sometimes I hear some crazy things. So, what do you really need to help your body recover after a long, hard work out or competition? First let’s talk about two things you don’t need.

One, a new fad called “dry fasting,” or in other words, starvation and dehydration. The idea of dry fasting (no food or water) for a set period (anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks) is just plain dumb for everyone, but especially for older, active adults. We’ve talked about the important of hydration in previous posts, so click here for more information on the importance of hydration for older, active people. Just say no when you come across the YouTube videos of dry fasting enthusiastic followers and stick to your tried and true fueling and hydration strategies.

Another thing you don’t need is expensive waters that claim to be “smart” by changing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of your blood. Organs, like lungs and kidneys, tightly control our blood pH in the range of 7.35 to 7.45; if gets higher it is called respiratory or metabolic alkalosis and if it is lower it is respiratory or metabolic acidosis and both are life threatening. There is no need to try to acidify or alkalize your body because your lungs and kidneys won’t let you do it anyway. The only thing “smart” about these waters is the money they are making for their promoters.

blood ph

For real recovery and hydration, here is what we know:

  • Fluids help restore body water.
  • Carbohydrates replenish muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen).
  • High quality protein provides key amino acids for repairing muscles.
  • Antioxidant-rich beverages like tart cherry or blueberry juice provide plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and help with muscle soreness after a hard workout.
  • Omega-3s (often called fish oils) are also anti-inflammatory and most Americans don’t get enough of these healthy fats in their diets.

ERSA Norwegian food scientist, Janne Sande Mathisen, has combined all these ingredients into a new recovery beverage called Enhanced Recovery Sports Drink. The beverage contains 20 grams of whey protein with 2 grams of leucine (an amino acid referred to as the anabolic trigger), and 1600 milligrams of omega-3s. It was tricky to find a form of omega-3s that worked in solution that didn’t taste fishy.

The carbohydrate source is from fruit juices (apple, pear, and black current) to give both rapidly absorbed carbs and polyphenol-rich fruits (those antioxidant healthy plant compounds).

I was sent some samples to try and I shared them with some very active friends. The overwhelming consensus is that it is a tasty drink, not too sweet, and serving size of just a little over 8-ounces is the right amount to drink after a workout without bloating, aftertaste, or too much volume. I think it tastes like kefir; others say it tastes like a yogurt smoothie.

I like the food forward approach of this recovery drink and think it might be a good solution for combining recovery elements in to one simple-to-drink beverage. For competitive athletes who may have to undergo drug tests, the product is certified by Informed Sport to contain no banned substances that could disqualify an athlete from competition.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of the product to try, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post. I have no connection to the company.

For more tips on staying healthy while being active, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon or other booksellers.

 

The Athlete’s Plate

MyPlate has generated a lot of buzz and I’m using it to show athletes how to eat for performance and good health. The USDA website contains loads of good tips on good nutrition but I’ve pulled out the tips that apply to athletes by showing them how eating by the plate method can deliver performance fuel. www.choosemyplate.gov/index.html

In the fruit section of the plate, encourage potassium-rich fruits. I’ve found that many athletes don’t get adequate potassium but they get plenty of sodium. Athletes who sweat heavily and lose sodium need more salt than most adults, but not much emphasis is put on potassium-rich foods. So I encourage bananas, melons, and dried fruit in trail mix to boost potassium. I also suggest they use a fruit-flavored yogurt as a dip for strawberries, bananas, melon wedges and apples…the dairy provides another boost of potassium. And, with the hot weather and outdoor practices, I suggest eating frozen fruit bars for a refreshing treat.

In the vegetable section, I suggest baked sweet potatoes in place of baked potatoes for a sweet change. Emphasize color (although one athlete asked me if a green apple was healthier than a red apple, so the color rule doesn’t always work) like dark lettuce, spinach salad, broccoli, and tomatoes. Athletes like pasta so they are happy to know that the marinara sauce counts as a vegetable serving. Encourage a lot of veggie toppings for pizza…they all like pizza…but I ask them try mushrooms, green peppers, and onion toppings. Stir-fries are popular, as are veggie kabobs on the grill.

For grains, I encourage whole grains, but many athletes are confused about what is a whole grain. They still think that 100% wheat bread or mixed grains or 7-grain breads are whole grains. I suggest they try whole wheat pasta in macaroni and cheese, brown rice with a stir-fry, and snacking on whole grain crackers (like Triscuits) or whole grain breakfast cereals (Wheaties and Cheerios are popular). And, popcorn is a good study snack to increase whole grains. But, only half of grains need to be whole grains and refined grains contribute some iron to an athlete’s diet. Iron is nutrient that is often in short supply in the diets of female athletes.

Protein is usually an easy sell to athletes but I encourage lean protein, like 90% lean ground beef or ground turkey or chicken breast. Athletes are often surprised to know that some beans and peas are high in protein, as are nuts and seeds. Fish and shellfish are also popular protein choices…unfortunately, often fried fish or shrimp is consumed instead of grilled or blackened fish or steamed shrimp. I encourage athletes to eat fish when they eat out as many don’t know how to cook fish.

Dairy foods can be great recovery foods and many athletes know that low-fat chocolate or strawberry milk is a good post-workout food. Yogurt makes a good snack, fruit dip, smoothie base, and baked potato topping. I also encourage “skinny” lattes for the morning coffee run.
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Using the plate to educate is an easy and smart way to reach athletes. For another good resource, check out the PowerPoint on MyPlate at www.extension.unl/edu/fnh