Last week, we discussed the importance of pre-workout nutrition and its positive impact on performance…..Now let’s round out our workout and discuss how essential post-exercise nutrition is for recovery and progress. What are the benefits of eating after a workout? Why is it necessary? What should I eat and how soon after? Let’s answer these questions.
When we workout intensely, we damage tissue, use fuel, and deplete our muscle glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrates. Ultimately, that’s what makes us stronger, leaner, fitter and more muscular. However, in the short term, these damaged muscles require repair. When you consume the right food after a workout, protein synthesis is stimulated (repair of damaged muscle) and protein breakdown is suppressed. (Losing muscle mass). Below are the main benefits of giving your body proper nutrients post-workout: 1. Less muscle soreness 2. Improved recovery 3. Increased ability to build muscle 4. Improved immune function 5. Improved bone mass 6. Improved ability to utilize body fat
What is the best fuel for recovery and progress? The first macro-nutrient that is helpful, is carbohydrates. Our bodies store carbohydrates as glycogen to be used during activity. How much we use will depend on how long and intense our exercise is. An intense workout will deplete muscle glycogen, therefore, we need to refuel with carbohydrates to promote glycogen synthesis. The fast digesting carbohydrates, simple carbs, will be of great benefit after a tough workout. It will get to your system quickly and replace the glycogen and glucose lost during the activity; think fruit. For the average exerciser, consuming 0.8 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight post exercise should do the trick. For the athlete, a bit more glycogen is used up during activity, and having 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight post workout will be of great benefit.
It is also crucial to feed your body some protein to stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit protein breakdown. For the average person who wants to look and feel good, a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein is sufficient. This means that for every 2 grams of carbs consumed, 1 gram of protein is consumed. For the athlete who carries out more labor intensive exercise, a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein will be required. Liquid nutrition works best. It is the fastest way to get the nutrients you need. This form of nutrition can be easily and rapidly digested, and is usually tolerated well after a workout. Some examples could be: 1. Protein shake including protein powder (whey, rice protein, plant protein or egg white protein) low fat milk or unsweetened nut milk or water, and a banana 2. Protein shake with Plain Greek Yogurt, milk and frozen berries 3. Protein powder with dark leafy greens, including, spinach, kale, celery, apple and ginger
When is it best to eat post-workout? Right away! You may have heard of the “Window of opportunity.” During this window, your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, growth and strength. This window opens right after your workout, and lasts up to 60 minutes. You will get the most benefit by refueling immediately. So, as soon as you finish your last dead lift, run for fuel!
How to fuel after your workout will depend on what your individual goals are. However, the above recommendations are a great way to get started to ensure you are getting the best nutrition for recovery and progress. Hungry for more? Tune in for next week’s article on hydration and its importance for an active individual, or Contact me via Julia@Verve360nutrition.com, and let’s find your balance so you can be one step closer to your fitness goals!