Strategies to accelerate recovery and overcome post-exercise muscle soreness are important for all athletes. But for older athletes who are likely to recover more slowly and who are more prone to muscle soreness, these strategies are especially important. Here then are some nutritional tips incorporating some of the latest findings in this area.
- Older athletes should pay special attention to their post-exercise protein intake, especially after unusually long or strenuous bouts of exercise.
- Begin feeding protein (along with carbohydrate) immediately after training, and then at regular intervals (90-120 minutes) afterwards.
- In the early stages of recovery, a fast-releasing protein such as whey is preferable to a slowreleasing protein such as casein; tired hungry muscles are especially primed to absorb amino acids (protein building blocks) in the early stages after exercise.
- During later stages of recovery, slowerreleasing proteins (for example, from meat, fish, milk products etc) are fine for keeping the supply of amino acids to the muscles topped up.
- Previous research has suggested that no more than 20g of protein can be absorbed by muscles in any one feeding. New research suggests that higher amounts – possibly as much as 40g – could provide additional benefits for older athletes.
- If time is tight or life is complicated, and you can only manage one post-exercise protein feeding, the most beneficial will be the one immediately post exercise. Aim to consume 40g of protein in this feeding.
- Allow longer recovery periods after particularly hard or prolonged training sessions.
- Pay careful attention to your day-to-day nutrition, ensuring that you consume high quality carbohydrates with some quickreleasing protein after every training session to maximise recovery.
- Remember that strength, power and flexibility decline disproportionately with advancing years; incorporate some strength and power training (e.g. interval training) into your weekly routine and be prepared to increase this to maintain performance at shorter distances.