Featuring insights from world-class running coach Greg McMillan
Having the right recovery nutrition helps you refuel and ensures that you have energy stores available to use a day or even four days later.
We review the basics of recovery nutrition and how to use UCAN products for recovery, featuring insights from world-class running coach Greg McMillan.
The Glycogen Window
Proteins and fats support muscle recovery. We have limited carbohydrate stores and if you train for a long time or at a high intensity, you burn through those carbohydrates stores to some extent and need to replenish them.
Within the first 30 minutes after your workout, called the glycogen window, the enzyme that helps restock your stores is ramped up above normal levels. If you take in carbohydrates within that glycogen window, your body is going to restock carbohydrates faster because it can take the enzyme up to 2 hours to go back to normal.
After long or intense workouts, getting carbohydrates with protein into your system will restock the glycogen stores so you can focus on your next meal, usually within two hours after the activity and containing high-quality carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The higher the quality of meals, the better the recovery.
If you don’t eat the right kind of fuel, your body’s still going to want more and that’s when you start overeating. Get something in right after you finish that hard workout and then focus on the meal. Don’t skimp on the meal because when you’re not eating a meal until three or four hours later, you’re still going to feel under recovered the next day.
Recovery Nutrition Tips for Weight Loss
The challenge that runners trying to lose weight have with recovery nutrition is that it’s too often not based specifically on what activity they’ve just done. The actual number of calories burned versus what they estimated are often significantly different. People will eat based on what they just ran and they’ll overeat because they feel like they burned more than they did. This is especially common with new runners. This can be counterproductive if you have weight loss or body composition goals.
Insulin is the most important hormone to manage when trying to maintain or achieve a different body composition. You want to avoid carbohydrates that cause a big spike in blood glucose, which encourages a big spike in insulin. There are two types of carbohydrates that impact insulin – fast-acting and slow-acting.
The fast-acting kind (sugar, white bread, energy gel) cause a spike in your blood glucose level, which stimulates the body to release a lot of insulin to get the blood glucose level back down to a normal level. A slower acting carbohydrate keeps your blood glucose levels much more stable. When you have a big spike in insulin, it inevitably results in more fat being stored.
For your post run recovery nutrition, you’ll want to focus on carbohydrates that don’t give you a huge spike in blood glucose (and insulin). Having something like a UCAN shake immediately after a workout replenishes carbohydrate stores while keeping blood glucose stable, so you don’t have the spike and crash that we’re all trying to avoid.
UCAN Nutrition for Recovery
UCAN nutrition products are completely different from the traditional sugar and maltodextrin based sports nutrition products and recovery drinks. The unique ingredient in UCAN nutrition products is called SuperStarch, a slower burning, slow acting carbohydrate that keeps blood glucose levels stable while replenishing glycogen stores, helping you avoid spikes to your insulin.
By keeping your insulin levels low, UCAN delivers a calm and steady energy for whatever activity you’re doing. Aside from the science, just in terms of feeling, controlling blood glucose helps you manage your energy for an extended period and avoid cravings or the ravenous hunger we often have when we’re not fueling the right way.
Running terms like “rungry” or “hangry” are issues that tie back to fluctuations in your blood glucose or that spike and crash effect. Having something like UCAN with protein to control your blood glucose can alleviate a lot of these issues. When you use UCAN, you’re working with the body and taking advantage of what the body wants you to do, because all bodies love stable blood glucose. Your body simply works better.
About Coach Greg McMillan
Greg is a runner, exercise scientist and coach with the unique ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. He has worked with Olympians, Boston Marathon qualifiers and new runners training for their first race. The bulk of his athletes are everyday runners balancing work, family and other commitments with their running. He coaches runners through his website mcmillanrunning.com