We all know the benefits of eating before we work out as we want to ensure adequate glycogen stores for optimal performance. Unfortunately this is the point at which most people stop because they are unfamiliar with how important proper nutrition is for you immediately following your workout.
Post exercise nutrition targets recovery and improved ability to train either later that day or the next. After each workout begin with replenishing fluids first. For the average gym goer, water will be enough but the endurance athlete who trains for longer durations, may need to have a sports drink. Follow your rehydration with a balanced meal consisting of carbs and protein.
Carbohydrate consumption stimulates insulin production which helps in the production of muscle glycogen. Glycogen as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is “the main form of carbohydrate storage occupying primarily in the liver and muscle tissue. It is readily converted to glucose as needed by the body to satisfy its energy needs.”
Having carbs within 15 minutes of exercise will help to replenish glycogen used in your workouts. The quickest option for most would be a small glass of juice or a piece of fruit. Endurance athletes will also need to consume a meal containing .3-.6 grams of carbs/pound of body weight within 2 hours of their workout. Those trying to lose weight are often willing to avoid eating carbs because of the fear of gaining more weight. Not to worry, eating small amounts of carbs before and after your workout, will not sabotage your goals. This is merely enough to keep you fueled for more workouts. As with anything, if you over indulge in your carbohydrate consumption, you will gain weight. Finding the right balance for each person is what will help you succeed in reaching your weight loss goal. There are plenty of healthy carbohydrate choices for you to choose from, some of which are: quinoa, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, beans, and couscous.
Protein has amino acids which are the building blocks of protein and are used to rebuild tissue damaged from exercise, as well as stimulate your immune system making you more resistant to colds and other infections. Because of the positive effect protein has on your muscles, it is as important to include it in your post workout meal as it is to have carbohydrates. Protein can be found in many forms such as: eggs, lean chicken, beef, game meats, fish, dairy, chickpeas, and beans, As well, ensuring you consume enough carbs in your day will help to prevent the breakdown of protein to be used as energy.
The market place is flooded with a variety of nutritional supplements to help speed recovery, lose weight, gain weight, build more muscle, burn fat etc. Don’t be fooled by their claims. Nothing can replace the health benefits of a diet full of fresh, wholesome food. To reach whatever health related goal you have, you need to work hard and eat properly daily. Consistency is what will help you in the end. Proper post exercise nutrition will help you stay fueled and ready for your next workout.