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Depending on when the time of day your practice takes place, the post practice meal could be a lunch or dinner. Regardless of which one it pertains to, this post will address post practice nutrition and its effect on recovery.
Let's briefly recap, what goals are we trying to realize through our diet while in training camp?
Energy Levels: Fatigue make cowards of men
Brain Function: Tired brain can’t focus or learn efficiently
Strength Levels: Nearly impossible to gain strength during camp but have to be
stronger than guy across from you
CNS Function: The nervous system is critical to performance, keep it fresh
Inflammation: Must minimize as the damaging effects are well doc**ented, hurts performance
I'm going to add one more to this list that I've talked about in the past, managing pH levels. Immediately following practice is the time to begin preparing for the subsequent practice and day. The quicker the recovery process can begin, the more you will be prepared to compete later.
Now is the time to consume all of the popular sports drinks many believe are "healthy" for you. Personally, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't touch the stuff. Many of the chemicals and sweeteners in those popular products are the furthest things you want in your body while trying to recover, but I am a realest, I understand what's available and popular belief. If I were coaching a team, my guys wouldn't touch them, they would have coconut water or simple pickle juice. Post and during practice is about the management of electrolytes. The name electrolyte sounds like some highly complex chemical compound when they are merely substances we consume more of on accident than intentionally. Although, during camp is the time to make sure we are ingesting enough.
Vital to hydration, brain function and muscle firing. Sea Salt is better option than basic table salt because it's not stripped of many of the critical trace minerals.
Plays key role in generating electrical pulses that allow the brain and muscles to function. You need it, eat spinach, tomatoes and banana's as they are all great sources.
The most depleted electrolyte after strenuous performance. Magnesium is busy regulating blood pressure and insulin sensitivities while we are at rest and both of which increase exponentially during practice. This in turn places more demand on magnesium supply. Magnesium helps relax nerves and muscles following practice which is first step in recovery. EVERY o-linemen in the NFL reading this will be glad to know the buckets of pumpkin seeds they go through during meetings is actually one of the world's healthiest food in terms of magnesium source. Spinach, green beans and pumpkin seeds are great sources.
Maintains bone integrity, nervous system function and muscle health. Dairy is the most common way to make sure we are getting enough but spinach and greens are a better choice. The more greens in your diet the less inflammation. Another calcium dense food, cinnamon.
Helps buffer the body's acid base. The most efficient way to achieve optimal pH balance is through diet. Greens, greens and more greens. If you have a few extra dollars around, buy yourself a green vegetable powder and take a scoop with lunch and dinner.
Ideal Post Practice Hydration:
Coconut Water mixed with Whey Protein 1-2 Scoops
Less Than Ideal But Functional:
Sports Drink mixed with Whey Protein 1-2 Scoops
No Way In Hell:
What To Eat
As you can see, the most common food mentioned thus far has been spinach. It has a wide array of health benefits, many of which are particularly important while your body is under a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress. In terms of post practice meals, spinach should be at the top of your list, along with these other foods.
You want a quality protein that is most importantly, easily digested. Fish and legumes are the most easily digested between chicken and beef, beef being the most difficult. The last thing you want during camp is your body spending an excessive amount of time breaking down a steak and not expending the energy in recovery. The protein sources have to be dense while being easy to process and fish fits the bill. The added benefit of fish are the levels of Omega-3 fats, which play a huge role in recovery and overall well being. Chicken would be a viable second option while beef should be left off the menu for a while.
Green Leafy Vegetables:
A spinach salad is as important as your helmet during camp. I wouldn't play without a helmet and understanding the importance of greens to the diet, I would not go a day without spinach or some type of green while in camp. No, the lettuce on a hamburger doesn't count.
Everyday you will be placing your body in a highly catabolic state. This is why it's so important to pack on as much muscle as possible during the off-season. It will be difficult to garner as much protein as you need through just diet. Having gone through training camps, I know what it feels like to not want to eat sometimes, this is where shakes can help. I am not talking about those shakes that promise to pack on twenty pounds of muscle in two weeks, I am referring to a simple whey protein.
Low Glycemic Carbohydrates:
As I mentioned, now isn't the time to load up on Twinkies. You want a nice steady flow of energy from the carbs, not a big spike in sugar that will lead you to being lethargic later and hampering recovery. Brown rice, potato's, yams, quinoa, oatmeal are all great sources of slow burning carbohydrates.
Ideal Post Practice Meal:
Spinach Salad, Red Bell Peppers, Boiled Eggs, Cheese, Turkey, Broccoli, Ranch Dressing
Wh*** Greek Yogurt sweetened with strawberries, blueberries and banana.
OR the latter two items blended together to make smoothie.
Less Than Ideal But Functional Meal:
Chicken - Grilled - Roasted - Baked
White Potato - Baked - Mashed - Roasted (If baked, sour cream, butter and cheese feel free to add)
Cottage Cheese with Fruit
No Way In Hell Meal:
Steak or Fried Meat
OR Fast Food
Like I told one of my guys before he left for camp, food during this time of year is either going to help you or hurt you. The challenge is to acknowledge that your diet isn't about making you "happy" but helping you perform. Food has a chemical way of making us feel good, but it's normally when we aren't eating the foods that are best for us. I want you to feel good about competing at a high level not from wolfing down a bunch of deep fried hot wings. A lot of what I'm sharing with you is what I did as a player but just as much is what I wish somebody had told me when I was playing. Ignorance for those of you that frequent this site is no longer an excuse, it all comes down to choices. Either you choose to be at your best or choose to be at your least, the choice is on you.
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