• Jennifer

Recovery, Part two: How to do it

This is part two of my recovery series. In part one, you'll learn why recovery is so important for everyone, not just athletes or those with injuries. I suggest reading part one first.

To recap, let's remember why we need to recover:

  • Injury, illness, surgery

  • exercise

  • not enough sleep/poor quality sleep

  • processed and refined foods

  • caffeine and sugar

  • stress

  • inactivity

  • alcohol

See, many of the things we do every day require our bodies to recover. Even exercise, which is itself a way to recover, requires a certain bit of healing after.

My personal recovery favorites (clockwise from top): Mega B-Stress, Jarrow Curcumin, Gaia's Maca Boost, Chocolate Grass-Fed Whey Isolate (this is a new one I'm trying), Jarrow Probiotic, Collagen Peptides, Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator, my favorite kefir water by Kevita, raw sauerkraut by Wildbrine, coconut oil and my sleep mask!

What is recovery?

We can look at recovery in three ways,

  • Cellular repair (all our cells including muscles, joints, nerves, connective tissue etc.)

  • detoxification (from things we ingest, from normal biochemical pathways, and from byproducts of exercise)

  • muscle growth (say hello to the gun show!)


Your nutrition for recovery is all the food you eat throughout the day. The foods you eat right now provide the building blocks for the continual recovery your body performs. Conversely, if you don’t fuel your body for recovery, it will steal resources from other systems of the body like your hormones and immune system.

Here are some basic tips for choosing food for ongoing recovery:

  • Figure out the best whole food based diet for your body and eat it. Each of our bodies are different which means each of us will have a different "perfect" way of eating. Be willing to experiment to figure out what that is for you. You can also work with a professional who can help you figure that out, as well.

  • Shop for ingredients and eat food that you cook yourself. Stop relying on other people to cook your food. Generally speaking (there are exceptions), it is never in the best interest of a business to choose the highest quality ingredients to cook with. Do it yourself so that you can control the ingredients and the preparation technique.

  • Aim to eat 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day. Make a Roy G. Biv game of it!

  • Eat healthy fat. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, egg yolks, fat from meat from animals who were raised well, wild-caught fish, nuts and seeds.

  • Source your protein well.

  • Eating fish is the new fish oil! Aim for 3 servings of cold-water fish weekly for the omega-3 boost. Best sources are wild-caught salmon and sardines.

  • Buy meat from animals who ate grass when they were supposed to.

  • Pay attention to how your body reacts to alcohol. Alcohol consumption raises cortisol and can disrupt your sleep.

  • Aim to eat this way 80-90% of the time. Perfection is not necessary. But, what we do most of the time matters the most.

Rest and Sleep

Pushing our bodies past their limit is great in gym (sometimes). But doing it everyday in every aspect of our lives is dangerous. It leads to burnout and exhaustion.

  • Aim for at least 7.5 hours sleep per night.

  • Know that your body does need rest days. As we get older, we need more.

  • Detach when you can from technology.

Watch the stimulants

  • Caffeine boosts cortisol and too much cortisol is not a good thing. It also silences the signals that tell your body to rest and can easily disrupt your circadian rhythms.

  • Lots of sugar causes wide fluctuations in blood sugar, mood swings and can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which can cause diabetes.

  • Pairing caffeine and sugar together too often is a violent ride for your body.

  • What to do? Limit your caffeine to before lunch and limit the added sugar in your diet all-together.

Learn to manage stress

  • We could be doing everything right for our health, and unmanaged stress will still wreck us.

  • First, ditch the stress you can.

  • Then, find the coping mechanism appropriate for you.

  • Prayer

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness

  • Journaling

  • CrossFit

Time with furry and non-furry loved ones is my favorite way to destress!

Supplements for daily recovery

  • Probiotics

  • Because so much of what we eat, the stress we feel and the toxins we come in contact with can disturb our gut biome, I recommend daily probiotic supplementation.

  • Bonus: consume probiotic rich foods daily like organic, plain yogurt, kombucha, kefir, raw kimchi and sauerkraut.

  • Look for probiotics with at least 2 billion microorganisms per dose in an enteric-coated capsule.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish

  • Great for whole body inflammation eradication. Try to get this from food since fish oil supplements can oxidize easily, which leads to more inflammation.

  • Turmeric

  • This is the #1 herb to fight inflammation. Recommended dose: 500mg/day

  • Vitamin C

  • Exercise raises cortisol. Supplementing with 1,500mg vitamin C daily has been shown to help manage this and bring it back down.

  • Collagen hydrolysate

  • Supplementing with collagen has been shown to reduce joint pain in those with osteoarthritis and exercise-induced joint pain as well.

  • Note that this does factor into overall protein intake for the day. Although collagen is not consider a complete protein, it is still valuable alongside other complete proteins.

So far, I've been talking about general recovery...the kind of recovery we should all be doing regardless of our exercise habits. Now, I will provide a little more information about our nutrition around exercise and how to use it to boost our results in the gym.

If we are eating nutrient dense foods in well-spaced out meals, before exercise nutrition is less important, especially for those performing a normal CrossFit WOD which lasts at most 1 hour (since exercising over 1 hour i.e. endurance sports do require extra thought around pre-exercise nutrition).

Nutrition before CrossFit (high-intensity / short duration)

The most important thing to note here is what not to eat. Try not to eat a ton of fat or protein within 1 hour of a workout. Digestion slows during exercise and the last thing you want is a ton of fat or protein hanging out in your stomach while you're trying to move fast or lift heavy (or lift heavy things fast). When choosing pre-workout food, easily digestible carbohydrates are best along with coconut oil because it is digested differently than most fats. Of course, if you are that person that feels awesome when you eat a big plate of eggs cooked in butter right before a workout, then go for it! You are the expert of your body.

Foods to choose:

  • Mostly carbohydrate with little fat and protein

  • Fruit is good

  • Dates are a good source of glucose (the body's preferred energy source)

  • Coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride. Goes directly to the liver to be burned as fuel (different than other fats).

Nutrition after exercise

Replace glycogen stores immediately after (within 45 minutes) a workout that really taxes you cardiovascularly. A 4:1 to 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein (recommendations vary) is recommended. After a higher intensity workout, opt for higher carbohydrate. After a heavier lifting workout, higher protein ratio. Also, a weight lifting only workout may not require this kind of recovery. In that case, go straight to the next part, which includes a balanced meal of protein, fats, and carbs.

  • If you are someone who only works out every 2 to 3 days, this refueling is not as important b/c your body will take care of replacing the glycogen stores naturally between workouts.

  • If you are someone who feels great on day one of your workout, but notice that you have less and less “fuel” to make it through by the end of the week, consider adding in this glycogen replacement.

  • Examples:

  • Liquid recovery drinks are the most convenient. When shopping for one, read the ingredients make sure they are clean. No high fructose corn syrup, food dyes, or questionable protein sources. Two products that I like are Vega One Recovery Accelerator and FitAid which is sold at CFB.

  • I also love this recipe for a diy version:

Lemon Lime Recovery Drink (adapted from Thrive by Brendan Brazier)

Ingredients: Juice of 1/2 organic lemon Juice of 1/4 organic lime 4 Medjool dates, pitted (they provide an excellent source of glucose) 1 tbsp honey Protein powder, less than 20g (remember that 4:1 ratio, hemp is good here, so is whey) 1 tsp dulse flakes 1 tsp hemp oil (or a blend of 1/2 tsp hemp oil, 1/4 tsp pumpkin seed oil, 1/4 tsp flaxseed oil) 1/2 tsp lemon zest 1 tbsp virgin, expeller-pressed coconut oil (optional) 1/2 tsp maca powder (an adaptogen that supports your adrenals and tastes like butterscotch)

2 cups water

Put everything in a blender and blend to throughly mix. Pour in your blender bottle and bring with you to your next work-out. This is definitely more work than just mixing a powder or popping open a can. But, it is an AWESOME option!

Whether you take the step to replace your glycogen stores or not, everyone needs a protein rich complete meal within 2 hours after workout. If you are particularly fatigued post-workout, a liquid meal (smoothie) may be easier to digest and assimilate.

When in doubt, experiment. Everybody needs at least some carbohydrate post workout to replace glycogen stores used during exercise. Experiment with how much leads to energy during your next workout. Generally, some protein is good immediately following workout (no more than 20 grams) while a complete meal (of carbs, protein, and fat) consisting of approximately ¼ of your daily requirements of protein should follow a workout by 2-3 hours.

Jennifer is the Nutrition Coach at CrossFit Burke. View her availability on the CrossFit Burke website to schedule your complementary consult today or view her services to get more info right now. Have question for Jennifer, email her today.