If you train in the evening there are some areas that you need to focus on with regards to your nutrition and your sleep. There is research out there that suggests the time of day you train can have a big impact on the physiological responses to your session. In my opinion it comes down to just getting your session done! Here is some advice to help you structure your nutrition for evening training and recovery.
Fuelling throughout the Day
Whether your training starts at 6pm or 9pm you have to ensure that you are fuelled adequately for the session. Too often I see athletes that will eat lunch at 1pm and then not eat again until after the session or grab something on route to training. Regardless of your training stimulus you need to be fuelling your body by providing enough calories over the whole day. Remember you are providing your body energy for work not just training.
Having a mid afternoon “mini-meal” will help you in three ways:
- It will provide calories to support your evening training session.
- It can help to prevent that energy slump mid afternoon or early evening.
- It will support your recovery and help sleep (more on this later).
What you choose to have for your mini meal depends on your personal goals, training type and volume. But some meals I suggest to the athletes I work with:
- 2 slices of Cinnamon and raisin oat bread with nut butter (Which World Cup Winner Rachael Buford made in the TPK studio).
The reasoning behind a mini meal is it will combat over-snacking, which often does't leave you full enough (which in turn causes more snacking).
Ever struggled to get to sleep after an evening training session? Laying in bed wide awake is not good for any athletes recovery. Luckily there are specific foods and nutrients can balance hormones and neurotransmitters that have been either elevated or suppressed during any evening exercise.
Boosting melatonin, serotonin and growth hormone levels will help to induce a nice healthy sleep and kick start your recovery. If you get your nutrition on point you can take advantage of this spike in growth hormone to maximise your recovery.
Foods that will help you achieve this include carbohydrates. Yep thats right I said it – eat carbs in the evening! Why? After exercise your body is primed to absorb carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. This is absolutely essential if you are training or competing the next day. For those of you thinking about training low or metabolic flexibility I will be writing an article on these very soon.
Carbohydrates will also lower cortisol levels due to insulin secretion. The consumption of certain foods that increase the availability of tryptophan, alongside synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, will also aid in promoting sleep.
Eating some protein containing Omega-3 fatty acids is also recommended. I don’t need to tell you the importance of protein for muscle repair, but eating quality protein in the evening can also increase your serotonin levels. The very last thing you want to be doing is eating foods that heighten the inflammatory response. Foods that are deep fried or high in refined sugar should not even be on your radar.
Here are some recipe ideas that I always suggest, that help induce healthy sleep:
Now before everyone starts shouting at me about not having the time to cook after training please read this first!
- Have some prepared meals that you can grab from the fridge or freezer.
- Use a company such as EVERDINE for quality frozen meals that can be heated in 8 minutes.
- Using quick cook packets of food such as lentils and quinoa can save time. Add in veggies and some cooked lean meat and you have a meal in under 10 minutes.
Have a smoothie (check back soon for my own smoothie recipes!)
The Importance of Sleep
The importance of a good nights sleep cannot be underestimated for repair and regeneration.
Many athletes I work with overlook sleep quality as an important part of their athletic performance. Together with the athletes, we identify some strategies and foods that will help: after exercising your sympathetic nervous system is dominant. You need this during exercise but want to switch into a parasympathetic state to kick start recovery and help sleep. There are a few key nutrients that can help you achieve this: Magnesiumbeen shown to boost your parasympathetic nervous system to help you recover faster.
Omega-3’s, taurine, vitamin C and glutamine are also good additions to your evening supplementation plan. These will help to clear cortisol, boost glycogen replenishment and lower inflammation, all of which are crucial to ensure you are maximising your training stimulus. Here are my supplementation recommendations –
- Immediately post workout – 20g protein with 5g creatine and 1g taurine.
- With evening meal – Vitamin C 2g, fish oil 3g.
- 1 hour after evening meal or 1 hour before bed – high strength ZMA taken with 10g glutamine.
About the Author: Liam is a writer, personal trainer & performance nutritionist based out of London who currently works with Copenhagen F.C. Read more about Liam's work here.