post workout nutrition

Recovery 101

Post workout nutrition is a very important part of any diet and training regimen and I believe it gets missed a lot even by professional athletes and trainers. It’s important to understand the science behind this to really get the big picture, so let me start with that…

During exercise our body breaks down glycogen (sugar molecules which we get from food), as well as some fat and some protein. Glycogen of course is the most readily available in most cases and is the fuel for us to not only exercise but to also allow us to really pushes through to the next level.

If our training intensity is high enough and we are exercising for about an hour our glycogen stores are diminished substantially and our body turns to protein and then fat for fuel. This is unfortunate because it means that we actually break down muscle sooner than our body breaks down fat for energy. From an evolutionary standpoint this makes sense because our bodies learned to store fat for times when food was lacking (picture a bear hibernating during winter). Pretty interesting if you look at it in this point of view isn’t it?

Your Post Workout Nutrition Focus:
But, here is the golden nugget…after our exercise routine our bodies ability to restore our glycogen stores are at its highest. Researchers believe that this time is usually limited to within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise. Thus, you want to make sure you save your high glycemic foods to this time period (as well as pre-workout but that will be in another article!).

Many of you may think that if you starve your body after exercise that you will begin to burn fat and therefore make you eliminate body fat. Unfortunately, the complete opposite is true!!!

If you starve your body after exercise you are going to be hit by a number of negative consequences.

Firstly, if you don’t get enough high quality carbohydrates within 60 minutes post-workout then your glycogen stores will not be at their optimal level next time you workout. This means that you won’t have maximal energy and will feel drained and unmotivated next time your exercising. Can we all relate?

Secondly, you are telling your body that it may not get food again for quite a while. Our body takes this to heart and reduces our metabolism to compensate and also begins to store food as fat as much as it can just in case it doesn’t get food again.

Pretty much a double whammy right? So now that you know the science behind post workout nutrition what are some healthy examples of foods to eat?

Post Workout Foods:
Fruit especially those extra sweet ones such as ripe bananas, apples, pears, watermelon are fantastic solutions for post-workout nutrition.

New research however shows that your body also has greater uptake of essential amino acids which are found in proteins right after your workout. So having a full meal like a bowl of brown rice with chicken, vegetables and cashews with light teriyaki sauce would be perfect. Of course, you can be creative with this and substitute fish, lean beef or even prawns. Something like roasted or steamed yam with a tablespoon of organic butter and spices sprinkled on top is also very smart.

For those on the rush, a bowl of instant oatmeal or a whey protein fruit smoothie (made with a high quality protein like Gaspari Nutrition Myofusion or Optimum Platinum Hydrowhey) would also be exceptional post-workout nutrition. In addition you may want to add a recovery amino acid complex (BCAA’s) like the yummy watermelon flavour of Scivation Xtend.

Other options

For those seeking weight loss: carrots, chocolate milk, honey on whole wheat toast, steamed nugget potatoes, lentil soup, whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, fruit salad, yogurt and oats.

For those seeking muscle gain: your favorite pasta with low fat sauces and extra veggies, cereal with skim milk, dark chocolate, gatorade, chili.

Have any questions about your post workout nutrition? Please leave a comment below…