Diet and food choices can seem so overwhelming when we’re bombarded with different opinions and conflicting advice about our health and fitness. Some people will tell you to load up on carbs, other will tell you to cut them out, some will tell you to exercise on an empty stomach while others will tell you the only way to go is vegan.
The one thing that most experts do agree on is to stay active and follow a balanced diet. To maximize your results, you want to make sure you’re eating healthy and eating enough. It’s as crucial to refuel after a workout as it is to eat before says leading Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert.
Why post-workout meals are crucial
Regardless of what type of exercise you do, your muscles use their glycogen stores for fuel. This leads to the depletion of your glycogen levels and breaking down of the protein in your muscles. After the exercise, your body will try to rebuild its stores, as well as, repair and regrow those muscle proteins, Lambert says. So by eating the right nutrients after exercising, you can speed up this process. Whilst you don’t want to undo your hard work in the gym, you should definitely be eating more on your workout days than when you’re sedentary.
What to eat
So now that we’ve told you to eat, the question remains…what should you be eating? In order to rebuild those glycogen stores and muscle proteins, as well as, grow your muscle, you want to make sure you’re eating both carbs and protein after your workouts says Lambert, author of Re-Nourish: The Definitive Guide to Optimum Nutrition. Protein will give your muscles the amino acids needed to repair and rebuild while carbs will fuel your body.
The type of exercise you do can affect what you should be eating post exercise. For example, endurance sports require the body to use more glycogen than resistance training, so a runner will probably need more carbs than bodybuilders. Also, even when you're trying to burn fat, eating healthy fats (in moderation) after working out can be helpful in promoting muscle growth, says lambert.
Which foods will help your recovery?
To promote faster nutrient absorption, Lambert suggests focusing on easily-digested foods such as:
Drinking plenty of water is also essential before, during and after a workout to avoid dehydration.
Simple post-workout meal ideas
According to Lambert, the following are the best things you could eat after your workout:
When to eat
The timing of your post-workout meal matters as your body's ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you workout. Ideally, you should eat within 45 minutes after you're done your workout but can go up to 2 hours.
The bottom line
Eating balanced healthy meals are crucial to ensure your health but this is especially true for those who workout. Your body needs the right nutrients for faster growth, improved recovery and enhanced performance.
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