When deciding what you should eat after you have finished your workout, whether it is an hour weight training session, a 45 minute cardio session, or even a day hiking some mountains; you should ask yourself these three important questions:
1. What activity did I just do? (Cardiovascular, strength training or a mixture of both)
2. How long did I spend doing that activity?
3. When did I last eat & when is my next meal going to be?
These three questions are crucial for allowing your body to utilize the food we give it, in the most beneficial way possible.
Before getting into the specifics, let’s talk about WHAT post-workout nutrition really is! First off, the body handles and distributes its nutrients after your activity differently based on the type of activity you just did. For example, if you go to the gym and do an hour of cardiovascular exercise (run on the treadmill or elliptical, etc), the nutrients that your body used to fuel yourself for that bout of exercise will be different than those if you went to the gym and hit the weights for an hour. Your body is an efficient machine that uses its energy stores in the most systematic way possible. That being said… one of the most important times to focus your quality nutrition on is after you have worked out, assuring your body the proper nutrients it needs to recover and repair itself.
Another fun fact! Consuming different nutrients post-workout will aid in recovery, performance, as well as body composition or in other words, your level of body fat. But wait; let’s not get too off track here! We’ll save that for another post! After your workout, your primary goal is to:
1. Replenish glycogen (stored carbohydrates) that your muscles have utilized during your intense training session
2. Decrease the rate of protein breakdown in the muscles
3. Increase protein synthesis to provide growth and repair to your muscles after they have been broken down
Why is this so important?
When we exercise it’s important to think about what happens at the cellular level, or the way that our body breaks down its energy to use as fuel. When you are exercising, your stored carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) get broken down into smaller fragments and then are converted into glucose and get used as energy. The same goes for protein in the muscles. The trauma of lifting weights causes tearing of the muscle fibers at the cellular level. This causes your body to break down protein in your muscles and begin the construction of new ones- a process known as protein turnover. While weight training, your body does far more protein breakdown than protein synthesis. This being said, these two nutrients, protein and carbohydrates are two of the most important nutrients to focus on when your workout is finished.
Here are some quick food options that you could consume post workout:
*Greek yogurt and berries/fruit
*Chicken or other meat source and rice
*Whey or Soy protein with oatmeal or berries
*Cottage cheese and an apple
Next time you push yourself through a hard workout, treat yourself with the nourishment it needs to recover and repair itself!