What’s your favorite cheat meal?
You know the one you mark your calendar for to enjoy once you’ve reached your goal?
During every training cycle, I pick out something to eat or a place to go after the meet.
Now, it can’t be just any old place, it needs to be somewhere I REALLY want to eat.
There is a LOT of thought that goes into it.
Do you know what the most disappointing thing about Nationals was?
NOTHING SOUNDED GOOD.
Leading up to Regionals, I was dreaming about Nelson’s Ice Cream, and when it came time to celebrate (or stress eat?), I licked the bowl of my triple scoop clean.
Leading up to Nationals, nothing called out to me. Not pizza, ice cream, cookie dough, burritos, or Halloween candy.
We were in Chicago, so I settled on Giordano’s.
Now, while it wasn’t quite what I wanted, the food was still great, and I definitely ate more than necessary.
Do you know what else wasn’t quite what I wanted?
For my body to feel like GARBAGE the next day….
I was dehydrated and cramping all night, and then, I got out of bed only to feel like the bar landed on top of me during the meet.
That morning I was faced with two choices:
Eat all the junk food everyone sent with for the trip to find something to hit the spot.
Enjoy the day, but get back to some nourishing foods to speed up recovery.
I know what you’re thinking….
“But you’re Jordan and you have so much self-discipline so it’s easy for you to just jump back on track.”
“It’s easy for you because it’s your job.”
OR my personal favorite:
“Oh you actually ate something that’s bad for you?”
Why yes, yes I did.
I enjoyed the rest of our time in Chicago.
I ate some of the candy people sent with me, and crushed a bag of popcorn with Brian.
But I also had a salad for lunch, drank a gallon of water, and finished the day with a
Here’s the thing, it’s NOT easy because I have self-discipline because I have much less than you think I do.
It’s not easier because it’s my job. It’s actually probably tougher because I know alternative strategies for recovery, so it’s HARD to say no to the cheat code.
Here’s why it’s easy – because I know what it’s like for my body to feel good.
I know what it’s like to be filled with nourishing foods and the right amount of nutrients provided to your body.
Sunday morning, I did not feel like that. I was sore, bloated, stiff, and pretty much downright rotten.
Does anyone actually enjoy being in pain?
Now, I’m not saying to skip your beloved celebratory cheat meal forever, but I’m saying
to be sure you’re nourishing the body on top of you celebration so you can enjoy and
feel great in the days to follow.
So food wise what does that look like? What food should you consume in the meal or
days to follow to speed up recovery?
Well I’m going to break this down two ways for you.
The first is the short, quick, and to the point explanation.
The second is the more thorough and specific explanation.
You decide where to stop eating.
Version 1: Short, Quick, and To The Point
Regardless of if you’re refueling from a competition, sickness, or simply a hectic period of life, the most important thing you need is calories.
High stress events, regardless of physical or emotional in nature, burn calories.
Your body is wired to pull nutrients to use as fuel; therefore, it’s important that you
restock those fuel sources afterward.
Shorting yourself on calories slows down tissue repair, hormone regulation, and nutrient reuptake.
You may think that taking in enough calories for recovery is a piece of cake, and while it is the most important piece, you still need to consider the make-up of those calories.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, protein is the most important macronutrient. Your body needs it for SO MANY processes, so when you’re in recovery mode, a lack of protein may only make matters worse.
My absolute simplest recommendation for protein is to consume it every meal; however, it feels wrong to leave you with that information even if you wanted the shortest version.
Without knowing you or your personal needs, I recommend a minimum of 20 grams of protein per meal for a five meal per day plan.
Omega 3’s are the healthy fats in your diet.
Quite frankly, whether you’re trying to speed up recovery or live a healthy lifestyle, you’re probably in need of some additional Omega 3’s in your diet.
These are what help to keep your joints lubricated, minimize joint pain, and promote brain health.
Recommendations for Omega 3’s will vary greatly depending on your history, body type, and preferences; however, the simplest way to consume enough Omega 3’s comes from eating a variety of healthy fats at every meal.
Seems slightly obvious even for the short, quick, and to the point list, huh?
But next to calories, this might be the second most important thing for your body when it enters recovery.
Just as stress pulls a great deal of calories and nutrients, it also pulls additional water to help conduct electrical processes and flow of nutrients.
If you’re hoping to speed up recovery, I recommend no less than 100 ounces of water, but preferably one gallon.
Version 2: Thorough and Specific
Let’s dig into this JUST a bit more since you wanted the thorough and specific version.
In essence, when your body is in recovery mode, it is in a form of a starvation mode.
Recovery indicates your body is low on nutrients, energy, and other resources, so the less you feed yourself the further you dive into starvation mode.
Eventually, too great of a restriction of calories while in recovery mode leads to a complete halt of progress and potentially a reverse of progress.
Now, that’s not to say that you need to unwrap a protein bar as you take the last steps of your run, but it is to say that you need to find a window to restock your fuel stores.
From a workout or competition, look to utilize a window.
Some individuals are starving shortly after his or her set, and others need some time to let the body cool down before the hunger pangs kick in.
Typically, I recommend 30 minutes to 2 hours following a workout is optimal for eating.
Yes, even if you are starving after your last set, I do recommend you give it some time before chugging down your protein shake because it allows your digestive system time to prepare for digestion and absorption.
Maybe you’re currently on the flip side. You’re recovering from a sickness or a high-stress season of life and your appetite is virtually non-existent.
Calories are a necessity.
You probably already know that, but what you don’t know is that the stress your body is currently facing may actually be masking your hunger.
I understand it may feel as if you’re forcing yourself to eat, so don’t make it a
Thanksgiving Dinner but try to add some calories into your system every two to three hours.
When we talked about calories, we talked about how the body is depleted of nutrients overall, and when that’s the case, the body is in need of protein to help the repair process.
Look to take in lean cuts of meat, as these will be packed with the essential amino acids necessary for producing or repairing cells.
Let’s talk a little more specific on HOW MUCH protein you should consume.
Generally, I recommend one gram per pound of bodyweight, but dependent on your goals, history, and stage of training, that could fluctuate slightly above and below that number.
When it comes to dividing that out, the majority of the time, I recommend dividing protein intake evenly across your meals. This will help to keep you satisfied throughout the day and adequately supplied with amino acids to allow for continual repair.
Sources: Poultry, Turkey, and Egg Whites
Omega 3’s are what you more commonly recognize as fish oil.
If you want the simplest and fastest recovery period, then the most common recommendation is to preload yourself with Omega 3’s.
Find a quality Omega 3 supplement from Labdoor.com, take the recommended dosage each day, and you will keep your joints and brain functioning properly.
Sources: Salmon, Walnut, and Eggs
Now your total water intake is most important; however, if you really want to speed up the recovery process, here are some recommendations for water intake:
- Drink 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning.
- Drink 8 to 12 ounces of water 30 minutes before each mean.
- Drink 8 ounces of water before bedtime.
- Add 10 to 16 ounces of water for every hour of physical activity.
- If you are participating in a competition, stay hydrated throughout the event by taking small sips at during each rest period.
Sources: Bottle, Sink, or Drinking Fountain
If you’re focused on consuming an adequate amount of protein, then iron is of much less concern.
When you’re in recovery mode, your body is heavily focused on repair.
Protein supplies the amino acids for tissue repair, but it also offers a high amount of iron which helps in the repair and building of new red blood cells. This will help you regain your energy levels and to supply the new tissues (and the rest of the body) with adequate blood supply.
Sources: Poultry, Seafood, and Beans and Lentils
Ahhh the most hated macronutrient these days.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but if you’re serious about feeling better quick, then you better take in some carbs!
It’s likely that your carb sources were burned out in whatever wore you out, so repairing those stores is important for bringing your energy levels back up quick.
The other benefit to carbs is that it helps to trigger the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), also known as the “Rest and Digest,” which is a critical factor for recovery.
How much will be dependent on your goals and preferences. If you prefer more carbs than fats, then you may recover faster with a greater amount of carbs.
Sources: Rice, Sweet Potatoes, and Quinoa
These are the fun ones and what’s going to pack a lot of flavor and punch to your meals.
Antioxidants are workhorses when it comes to helping your body recovery as they are known for their protection (through strengthening the immune system) and repair.
These are also going to stock you full of vitamins that are going to help the body return to normal functioning.
Sources: Berries, Grapes, and Pomegranates
Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium
These are the primary minerals utilized for bodily functioning, particularly during exercise.
Sodium helps with muscle contraction and nerve functioning, and while many worry about consuming TOO MUCH sodium, it is an important piece to recovery.
Sources: Added Sea Salt, Eggs, and Dairy
Potassium is there to help your muscles work, promote cell growth, and keep your heart healthy.
Sources: Avocados, Sweet Potatoes, and Spinach
Calcium is best known for it’s contribution to bone health, but it is equally as important for muscle strength, nerve signal regulation, and blood clotting.
Sources: Seeds, Yogurt, Beans and Lentils
Magnesium is the good stuff. This is the mineral that helps your muscles to relax. It can help to alleviate sore muscles, and stimulates relaxation overall, which contributes to sleep and rest time.
Sources: Nuts, Quinoa, or Dark Leafy Greens
Finally, I feel like we cannot close this blog post off without acknowledgement of the things we love. You know, the things that typically make up our celebratory cheat meal – sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.
You will not die or live a lifetime of suffering from consuming these things in a celebratory meal. Honestly, you will only suffer if you continue to and ONLY consume these foods. These foods lack nutrients, and that is what your body needs most for repair and recovery.
I recommend to my clients that they follow the “Pick Your Poison” approach.
If you want to devour a Nelson’s Ice Cream triple scoop, go for it! BUT, hitting up the bar for drinks and bar food later could leave you in serious pain in the days to come (physically and digestively).