Give your training or workout some oomph -- with the right nutrition at the right time. What you eat or don't eat immediately after a workout could be just as important as what you do on the field, in the pool or in the gym. Properly refueling spent muscles can help athletes feel less fatigue and perform better at the next workout, particularly athletes who work out twice daily. The benefits are not lost on recreational athletes, either, after demanding workouts. Timing is everything, however. Indiana University researchers say a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is key and it must be eaten or drunk within 45 minutes of the workout for the maximum benefit. "Muscle cells actually become relatively resistant to absorbing nutrients after two hours," said Joel Stager, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at IU Bloomington School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. Stager's research team discovered a few years ago that chocolate milk makes an excellent exercise recovery beverage in part because of its carb-to-protein ratio and because it helps rehydrate the body. Carbs and protein can be ingested in many forms, however, including drinks, gels and good ol' peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "Eating right on a daily basis and proper exercise recovery nutrition should be considered part of an athlete's training," Stager said. "Athletes who eat and drink within that 45-minute window following practice have an edge over competitors who do not."
Stager is director of the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming, a national champion in U.S. Masters Swimming and a coach. He and his colleague Alice Lindeman, associate professor in HPER's Department of Applied Health Science and a registered dietitian, offer these nutritional suggestions for recovering after exercise:
- Not just once. The initial snack should be eaten or drunk within 45 minutes of the physical activity. For the serious athlete, additional snacks with the same 4:1 carb-to-protein ration should be ingested every hour for four to six hours.
- What to choose. It is best to make the food as easy to digest and absorb as possible. Beverages help rehydrate and can be easier on the stomach. Options include juices, sodas (avoid too much caffeine), sports beverages, sports bars, gels or even Kool-Aid. Some commercial products are designed to provide the 4:1 ration. Here are two examples of homemade combos: 12 ounces low-fat chocolate milk and half a jam sandwich equals 60 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein; 12 ounces of lemonade and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich equal 87 grams of carbs and 19 grams of protein.
- Skip the diet sodas. Because of the caffeine and lack of carbs, even water would be a better choice.
- How much. This formula can be used to figure out how much to eat: Divide your body weight by two or three and use the number to represent the amount of grams of carbs that you should eat. If you weigh 150 pounds, you would eat from 50 to 75 grams of carbs during your refueling snacks. Divide your weight further by four to determine how much protein to eat -- 12-19 grams in this example.
- Carbs, protein, antioxidants? Foods containing antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and oxidative processes that naturally occur in muscles after prolonged exercise. Bright colored fruits and vegetables or their juices and dark chocolate contain antioxidants. Cans of vegetable juice and dried berries can make good snacks.
- What does Stager do? When training hard, he follows his workout with a large serving of chocolate milk and a 3-ounce can of tuna.
Women say, "Save the excuses." Self-handicapping expert Edward R. Hirt has found that men are more likely to engage in self-handicapping than women and are more forgiving of others who are quick with the excuses. Self-handicapping is when a person creates an excuse for failure before the situation even occurs. Being late, blowing off studying, excessive drinking and inadequate sleep are examples of self-handicapping. "Self-handicappers make excuses ahead of time so they are covered if they do poorly and appear like over-achievers if they do well," said Hirt, associate professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Hirt's recent research on self-handicapping focuses on gender differences. While neither sex is immune to making excuses, men are more likely to actually sabotage their chances for success by withdrawing effort -- or failing to do the practice or preparation that they know will increase their chances for success. "Women are less likely to self-handicap in this way and respond more negatively to others who fail to expend effort at important tasks," Hirt said. "Men will actually engage in self-sabotage and are more lenient and understanding of others who do." He said women and men place different personal value on effort, with women placing more importance than men on putting forth effort.
Hirt said he strongly believes that people can change. For people who self-handicap, this requires them to change their perspective on performance issues. He suggests the following:
- Focus on success. Hirt said focusing on success rather than worrying about potential failures appears to help self-handicappers. Self-handicappers constantly worry about the possibility that "I could fail," instead of focusing on what they can do to maximize their chances for success and getting the necessary task done.
- Recognize self-handicapping. Poor nutrition, tardiness, inadequate sleep, excessive drinking, blowing off studying or practice, poor preparation and stress are examples of self-handicapping.
- Quit complaining. Most self-handicappers complain after the situation has occurred and talk about "what could have been" rather than what actually happened.
- Put yourself to the test. The next time you have an exam or presentation at work, prepare for it. Continue to challenge yourself.
Thinking about a new job? Boredom. Anxiety. Restlessness. A sense of dread. If these terms describe your feelings at work, don't be afraid to make a change, said Amy Gregor, coordinator of career services at the Indiana University Alumni Association. She regularly communicates with alumni who are making career changes. "Career change is a natural life progression. Most studies show that the average job seeker will change careers -- not just jobs -- several times over the course of his or her lifetime," she said. But before you turn in your pink slip, take some time to carefully assess the situation. It is very difficult to find satisfaction if you don't know what you need, Gregor said.
Do you need a radical leap or just a tweak? Gregor offers the following suggestions:
- Take a hard look. Start with a self-assessment of likes and dislikes about your current position. Are there certain aspects that you do enjoy? Get specific about your list of grievances. Are the hours too long? Are you bored? Is the pay too low? Do you wish you had a healthier balance between work and family life? Does your job match your values? You might find that some of the negatives can be addressed within your current position. "It is possible that your boss has no idea you are unhappy and would be perfectly willing to change things if you propose a new plan," Gregor said.
- Bad habits? Certain habits tend to make people unhappy at their jobs regardless of the circumstances. "If you never take a lunch, have poor time management skills, and never use your vacation time, most people will burn out. If you bring that approach to another job or career you may continue to have the same levels of dissatisfaction," Gregor said.
- Don't put it off. Once you're certain you need to leave, start taking steps to transition as soon as possible, Gregor said. "Don't wait until you are at the point where you are so frustrated you're willing to burn bridges," she said.
- Rediscover your passion. Think of times when you felt most successful. Ask yourself what you really love to do. What's the best thing about your profession? What do you do for fun? If you didn't care about what anyone thought, what would be your highest aspiration? Answering these questions can help you get a sense of what career path to pursue.
- Still not sure? "If you've analyzed your likes and dislikes, but you're still not sure what career path to take, consider taking a career assessment. The key is investing in the time to rediscover yourself, and using your self-assessment to steer your new career search," Gregor said.
- "You're never starting from scratch." Once you have discovered your passion, be sure to take the time to assess the skills you already possess. You may be surprised to see that you already hold many skills -- and well-earned experiential knowledge -- that will directly apply to your new career. In some cases it may help to pursue further education, but many career changes are possible without going back to school, Gregor said. "You are never starting from scratch," she said. "Try to stop identifying yourself as a job title like 'accountant' or 'programmer' and learn to talk proudly about your skills and strengths that can apply in any situation. For example, you could say, 'I am good at problem-solving and presentations.' You have worked, gained experiences, earned a degree, and you have success stories to tell. So many talents are transferable across career fields." Some positions may require more education, but don't assume the requirements listed in job postings are always set in stone, Gregor said. "The truth is that employers want to hire the right candidate, so do not underestimate yourself. If you have the knowledge, skills, and experience you may consider contacting the employer." she said.
- Network. Don't just dive into the help wanted ads, Gregor said. Test the waters by talking with people who work in various career fields. "Most individuals are happy to chat and describe their typical workday," Gregor said. College or university alumni associations are a great place to start looking for contacts or mentors, Gregor said. The Indiana University Alumni Association, for example, offers many networking resources, including an alumni online directory, an alumni-to-alumni mentoring program and more than 100 alumni chapters worldwide.
- Talk about your dreams. "During this time it may be helpful to talk about your plan with the people you trust most, such as your family, friends, alumni contacts, pastor, trusted counselor, financial advisors, and maybe even your doctor," Gregor said. "It will be important to gain support during any times of transition."
Here are some online resources that could be helpful: IUAA career services, http://alumni.indiana.edu/career/resources.shtml and http://www.iualumnicareers.com; "The Riley Guide" -- A gateway site that can take you from self-assessment to career exploration and job leads, http://www.rileyguide.com; "O*NET, The Occupational Information Network" http://www.online.onetcenter.org; "The Job Hunter's Bible: What Color Is Your Parachute?" http://www.jobhuntersbible.com; Business Week Online -- Business and career management articles from current and recent issues, http://www.businessweek.com; Career Journal -- Career management information and additional resources from the publishers of The Wall Street Journal, http://www.careerjournal.com.
For additional assistance with these tips, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.