What you eat after your workout is crucial in optimizing your recovery process. It also ensures that your body has all the nutrients it needs in order to recover and improve.
Post Workout Nutrition Serves 3 Purpose:
- Replenish Glycogen
- Decrease Protein Breakdown
- Increase Protein Synthesis
What is glycogen?
Glucose is the main source of fuel for our cells. When the body doesn’t need to use the glucose for energy, it stores it in the liver and muscles. This stored form of glucose is made up of many connected glucose molecules and is called glycogen. When the body needs a quick boost of energy or when the body isn’t getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into the bloodstream to be used as fuel for the cells.
What is protein synthesis?
First, you have to know a little bit about proteins. Proteins are a long chain of amino acids. There are many types of proteins in the body that provide essential functions.
Amino acids are special organic molecules used by living organisms to make proteins. The main elements in amino acids are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. There are twenty different kinds of amino acids that combine to make proteins in our bodies. When a cell creates a protein this is called protein synthesis.
There are two steps in the process of protein synthesis: Transcription and Translation.
Transcription: When a call makes a copy of DNA. This copy of DNA is called RNA (ribonucleic acid). Which is used in the next step.
Translation: With this step the RNA is is converted into amino acids which create the protein. RNA by definition is: a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins.
In other words, athletes and exercisers want to:
- replenish energy stores
- increase muscle size and/or muscle quality
- repair any damage caused by the workout
This also helps with keeping the body injury-free.
There are many benefits to proper post workout nutrition such as:
- improved recovery
- less muscle soreness
- increase ability to build muscle
- improved immune function
- improved bone mass
- improved ability to utilize body fat
When we work out intensely we are ultimately damaging tissues and the microlevel and we use fuel. This is what makes our bodies stronger, leaner, more fit and more muscular- but this all requires proper repair and recovery. We do this by increasing the circulation of blood and by having more nutrients in that blood.
Timing is Everything
After a workout we have a “window of opportunity” where our muscles are ready to accept nutrients that will stimulate muscle repair, growth and strength. This window is ready immediately after a workout and will begin to close fairly quickly. Therefor making it very important to properly feed your body within an hour of your workout to see the most benefits. Otherwise, you decrease muscle glycogen and protein synthesis.
What to Eat
- Protein- which will aid in protein synthesis
- 20g of protein at MINIMUM to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
- Carbohydrates- which will help replace muscle glycogen
- Remember, glucose is absorbed faster than fructose so opt for fresh vegetables.
Having a meal readily available may be challenging post workout, so it’s recommended to have “liquid form” of post workout nutrition handy. This would be a recovery protein shake that is rich in both protein (hydrolysates or isolates) and carbohydrates (glucose, maltodextrin or dextrose).
Putting it to Use
The repair and rebuilding of proteins occurs through the breakdown of old damaged protein (protein breakdown) and the construction of new proteins (protein synthesis). This relationship is the basis for muscle growth. So, having a meal option readily available post workout is very important!
Here are some post workout meal ideas:
- 1 cup cubed chicken breast
- 1 cup cubed sweet potato
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Black pepper
Ground Turkey and Sweet Potato Skillet (OMIT CHEESE!)
Cafe Mocha Shake
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1 cup vanilla almond milk
- 1/3 frozen banana
- dash of cinnamon
- 2 tsp cooled coffee
- 2-4 ice cubes