Eating for Recovery

A while back when I was still racing Ironman, I figured out that taking protein powder mixed in sports drink for the days after my long training day could bring in recovery by one whole day. Still, my recovery was up to 3 days after, meaning it was really tough to do a decent workout until 2-3 days after that long day of swimming 4000m, biking 6 hours, and then running 30 min. I was elated to discover that protein powder could accelerate recovery by a whole day, but I just chalked the slowness of recovery to my age.
Little did I know….
Fast forward to today. Over the last seven months, I’ve been doing dual kettlebell and EVO/POV workouts (EVOultrafit training with an ARPWave POV electrostim machine). Since both were completely new training stimuli to my body, I knew there would have to be some fine tuning on how much I could do. For many months, I tried to figure out how to be ready and train for as many workouts as possible in a week. For kettlebells, I was building muscle and strength to handle heavy weights in a ballistic manner; for EVO/POV training, I was using a ton of resources through neurological training.
I tried varying the number of workouts per week and also what workouts I was doing each day. I tried EVO first and then KBs, but that made me too tired for a good (and safe) KB workout. So I ended up with KBs first and the EVO/POV next. But still, I would wake up the next day sore from yesterday’s workout. This wasn’t good – I felt like I couldn’t put enough time into training technique for KBs each week. I tried doing 2 days of KB/EVO workouts one after another but sometimes that would wipe me out for 2 days straight! At this point I ended up doing 1 day of KBs/EVO-POV and 1 day off.
The EVO guys told me that I should be eating 1g of protein per pound of body weight to enable good recovery. I started doing some calculations on how much I was eating and I was coming up short! So I upped my protein intake to about 150g (I weigh about 150 lbs), and started taking protein powder before and after my workout to help with recovery. Still, while eating this much, I was not recovering overnight but needing an extra day or two.
About a week ago, I decided on a whim to eat more. Every day I started eating one meal where I would eat a pound of beef. I also added more protein powder across the day. What a difference that made! One the first day I did this, and did a KB/EVO-POV workout that day, the next morning I was completely not sore but only tight in a few places, which I addressed during warmup! Amazing! I went back to my notes and did a calculation on protein intake and I was up well over 200g of protein! Apparently the rule of 1g per 1 lb body weight wasn’t right for me!
I asked Garrett Salpeter of ARPWave Austin what his experience with eating was and he said that in many instances, the ratio was more like 1.5g to 2.0g per lb of body weight, sometimes even more, depending on the circumstances and how heavy they were training.
It seems to me that the 1g protein per pound body weight is a good starting guideline and that you have to experiment to get the correct ratio, sometimes upwards of 1.5 to 2g or more protein per pound body weight! You try 1g/lb first and see if you recover by the next morning; if not, eat more!
Looking back to my Ironman training days, I was clearly not eating enough to fuel recovery. Potentially it was also a reason why I was healing so slowly too. Yes, age is a factor but when I am burning through resources through heavy training, there may be not enough left for other things. But age clearly isn’t as much a factor as I thought as after eating a ton more, I could recover from a tough workout overnight!
Other related items to note – having regular stool is a sign that my body is processing food and expelling waste well. Not having regular stool is a sign that something isn’t working right. This was another sign that something was amiss but I did not know how to read it, as I was not having regular stools for years! However, to fix this, it took Dr. Justin Marchegiani of JustInHealth. I did a series of blood tests: adrenals, thyroid, iron, cholesterol – to see what was wrong with me that I could not see through non-chemical means. The test result that was problematic was my ferritin; it was off the charts! As Dr. Justin put it, I was rusting from the inside out!
I took some supplements to help absorb iron and also stopped taking an iron supplement plus the multivitamin with iron in it. Then I gave blood which was the fastest way to remove iron from your system. After my first blood donation, magically my stool became regular! A month later, I gave blood again and my stool became not only more regular, but more than once a day. This showed that my digestive system had come back to better and proper function and somehow the excess iron was causing this problem. Doing some detective work like this on my blood composition was definitely helpful in putting me back on track.
One more comment – eating more is a training effort in itself. I had to adapt to stuffing myself with more food every day. I am not sure about reports about the stomach needing to stretch but it did take a day or two to get used to eating this much food. But now that my digestion was back on track, and the fact that my training uses up so many resources, I find that eating so much isn’t so bad and that my processing of the food is fast and good.