Post-workout nutrition is just as important, if not more important, than your other nutritional choices throughout the day. The foods we eat after a workout largely dictate what our bodies will look like. There are many differing opinions on what you should or should not eat after a workout, but two things remain the same: eat protein and eat carbohydrates. In this post we will look at the three different macronutrients and how they should be incorporated into our post-workout diet.
The most important macronutrient after a workout is protein. Protein comes in all different shapes and sizes, but its focal point remains the same. Protein is composed of different amino acids that help repair your muscles after a workout. These amino acids are necessary for our bodies to function properly and must be consumed after a workout to see results. There are three true sources of protein, meaning they have all of our amino acids. Those proteins include milk, eggs and animal meats. Red meat has its benefits, but is also a carcinogen, meaning it’s a cancer causing agent when consumed in high amounts. Red meat is also high in saturated fat, which can also be detrimental to our health. We want to try and eat around 1.0-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. After our workout, we want to have around 25-40 grams in order for the muscles to repair themselves. Timing is also important when it comes to post-workout nutrition. We want to try and consume protein at most an hour after training. Not only will protein help with muscle repair, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent as well.
The second macronutrient we want to focus on is carbohydrates. Carbs can be seen as bad, but they are crucial in living a healthy life. Many people think that if they consume carbs they are going to gain weight. The types of carbohydrates you consume will dictate whether or not
you gain weight. Eating foods that are high in processed carbs, such as pastry or baked goods, will lead to weight gain. After a workout however, carbs are very beneficial. When we exercise, our bodies use a fuel known as glucose that gives us energy. When we eat carbs after a workout, our bodies are able to replace that muscle glycogen so the protein can heal everything up. The most beneficial carbohydrate to consume post-workout is dextrose. Dextrose is a simple sugar and it is the pure form of glucose. This is the same type of sugars that are in Gatorade and other sports drinks that are high in carbs designed to refuel what we have lost in sweat. Many health and fitness professionals believe that one of the best forms of dextrose is gummy bears. Renowned author and doctor of exercise physiology Jim Stoppani is a big advocate for gummy bears after a workout. According to an article by The Philadelphia Inquierer, Stoppani says, “Fast-digesting carbs hit your blood stream quicker, causing insulin to spike. Fast-digesting carbs are ideal after a workout. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend opting for the gummy bears.”
Depending on your goals, your carb intake should be around 50-65% of your daily calories. When we finish a workout, we want to have around a 2:1 or a 3:1 carb to protein ratio, meaning that for every two to three grams of carbs, we need to have at least one gram of protein. This will give our bodies the proper fuel to be able to build and recover from a workout.
Fats are important in our daily diet, but no much research has been done regarding post-workout nutrition. These studies have shown that fats will not hinder recover, but they also
may necessarily help recovery as well. Foods that are high in fat include avocados and nuts among others, but eating fat will not make us fat. Eating excess amounts of calories, carbs and sugars will cause weight gain. Fats have important properties including the formation of hormones and the protection of organs among others. Fats should make up roughly 30% of your daily caloric intake.
Post-workout nutrition, and nutrition in general, is the most important aspect of fitness. What we put into our bodies truly does dictate what we will look like. You can have the greatest workout, but if your nutrition is poor that workout will go to waste. Always consult with your trainer for diet tips and/or a meal plan if they are a nutritionist as well. The phrase we are what we eat is very true. In order to push our bodies to the max and perform at a high level, we have to consume foods that will allow us to do that!