Mini Series: Everything You Need to Know About Recovering - Food

The following is such an important topic that I am breaking it up for you in digestible bites.  Welcome back to a mini series created from the article published in Juggernaut Training Systems.  Click here to see last week's intro installment.

Fatigue Reduction Methods that Work Well:

The fatigue reduction modalities presented in this section are the ones that almost certainly work and work well. They were chosen because they have three distinct advantages in their favor:

– They have strong support in the peer-reviewed literature.

– They logically align with our greater understanding of sport science and physiology.

– They have been used and sworn by in the real world for a long time and by a diverse group of athletes and gym rats alike.

When you’ve got all three, you know you’re on to something that really works. And our first – and easily most powerful – fatigue reducer:

2 Food

Second to sleep, the most powerful fatigue fighter is food. Unlike with sleep, where getting enough is the ticket, with food, the more the better (to a point). The most profound fatigue reduction comes from a hypercaloric diet. If more calories are taken in than expended and weight is being gained, fatigue management becomes much more effective than otherwise. You’re able to survive and recover from training that seemed at the time to be near-impossible, ready to repeat it all merely several high-calorie days later.

The less food you eat, the more difficult fatigue management becomes. While a properly balanced isocaloric (maintenance) diet can definitely help with recovery, the further calories dip below maintenance, the more profoundly fatigue has a tendency to accumulate. With dieting, this is just fact of life and must be accepted. During fat loss dieting, that is precisely why making sure the other fatigue fighters like proper training management and sleep are in order. One of the most powerful – food – is no longer available in then needed quantities.

The most profound fatigue reduction comes from a hypercaloric diet.

Calories are king when it comes to fatigue, but macronutrients matter too. And the most important of them? CARBS. That’s right, protein is not in its customary first place ranking this time. While protein builds and preserves muscle, carbs have a more profound effect on cumulative fatigue, mostly through their effects on muscle glycogen reserves. Low muscle glycogen levels literally turn up AMPk and other catabolic and fatigue-related cellular machinery. Low glycogen levels are in fact one of the most powerful single contributors to cumulative fatigue itself. Eating enough carbs to replete glycogen can go a long way in fighting fatigue. Additionally, ingested carbs have a tendency to lower cortisol levels, which is a great added benefit. While about 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is a good start, carb recommendations are made by training and activity volumes:

– 1g per pound per day for light or off days (sets of 3-5 reps, typical peaking training for powerlifting)

– 2g per pound per day for moderate-hard days (sets of 5-10, typical powerlifting and bodybuilding training)

-3g per pound per day for super high volume days including multiple hard workouts per day (multi-sport, endurance sport, and CrossFit athletes at various phases)

You can go lower than these guidelines, especially when fat loss is the goal, but cutting carbs will eventually have negative effects on fatigue, so cut the least you can to still get the results you need.

Fats are important for various hormone production and thus have an effect on fatigue, though much more subtle. Generally, keeping essential fats above 10% in grams of your bodyweight in pounds is a good idea. Thus, if a 200lb individual chronically dips below 20g per day, this may cause more unwanted fatigue than necessary.

How are you at meal time?  Tune in next week to follow up with another underestimated fatigue reducer: Sleep.  Got questions?  Talk to your coach about your recovery routine.