If you're a fitness fanatic, you have probably heard this before: what happens outside the gym is just as important as the workout itself. Whether you are working out to build muscle, train for a race, build stamina, lose weight, or tone your figure, diet and lifestyle is just as important as your workouts to achieving these goals. Two ways to achieve these goals are proper nutrition before a workout and after.
Unlike the pre-workout meal, the importance of post workout nutrition is widely agreed upon. When you workout, your body uses glucose in the form of glycogen as energy. This is why pre-workout nutrition is important, it helps to fill your glycogen stores with lots of energy for you to use. Regardless of your pre-workout meal, your workout will most likely leave your muscles depleted of glycogen and may leave your muscles slightly broken and damaged. After the workout, your body tries to replenish the glycogen stores and regrow and repair your muscles. (cite). The macronutrient makeup and timing of your post workout meal can impact your recovery, tissue repair, muscle protein synthesis, and mood. We took a deep dive into what the science has to say about how your muscles recover and how the three macronutrients impact your post workout to help you better understand how to create a post workout meal to meet your goals.
BODY POST WORKOUT//
As you workout and for the hours after your workout, your body undergoes some changes. Your muscles tear and you may become sore as they heal and grow. Your heart rate increases as your body tries to pump your blood and circulate oxygen. Your heart rate may stay elevated after your workout as your body continues to cool down. Consistent exercise can help your heart to become more efficient, lowering your resting heart rate. As you workout (and for a bit after your workout), your digestion may be impaired. This is because blood goes to your muscles to fuel your workout, leaving your digestive system without proper blood flow. This can cause stomach troubles during and immediately after intense exercise, which is why runners sometimes have to go badly while running. Your brain experiences an increase in blood flow, which helps you to feel more alert and awake during exercise and more focused after your workout. Your brain also releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters and hormones.
As you can see, your workout causes changes in your body for at least a few hours after your workout. These changes, as well as the workout itself, is why post workout nutrition is so important: it aids in these physiological changes and helps to repair your broken muscles to increase strength and stamina. The timing of the post workout meal is also of great importance. Experts recommend consuming your post workout meal within 45 minutes of your workout to maximize muscle recovery and glycogen synthesis. Delaying your meal by just a few hours can lower your glycogen synthesis by 50%, so don't wait too long to have your post workout meal. However, if you are unable to eat after a workout, be sure to have a balanced pre workout meal because the benefits of the preworkout meal may still apply after training helping to offset your lack of an immediate post workout meal
MACRONUTRIENTS + FLUIDS//
You should consume a meal with all three macronutrients (in varying ratios depending on your goals) after your workout. You should also be sure to stay hydrated. Hydration is important because it helps to keep you from being dehydrated and it can improve muscle flexibility, help to build strength, and help to prevent muscle soreness. If you really broke a sweat during your workout or it was extremely long and strenuous, consider a drink with electrolytes that can prevent and/or relieve muscle cramping and provide you with some quick nutrition. However, be sure to avoid any highly sugary sports drinks as they can actually dehydrate you further.
If your goals are to build muscle, you will want to up the protein of your post workout meal. During your workout, your muscles become torn and they break down protein in your body. This is why protein is so important after a workout: your body loses protein as your muscles tore, so replenishing protein stores is important to ensure that your muscles have enough energy to recover. Through a process called muscle protein synthesis, old proteins that were broken are repaired and new proteins are built to increase the size of your muscles and increase strength. If you don't consume enough protein after your workouts, you could experience a loss in muscle mass, strength, and a loss in fitness despite working out. Experts recommend consuming .14-.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight soon after your workout. Research shows that to maximize your bodies ability to recover, you should consume 20-40 grams of protein. Protein shakes, like those made with chocho powder, can provide vital nutrients and protein after a workout. Other protein rich meal options include a tofu packed sandwich, a chickpea based salad, or a quinoa buddha bowl.
Carbohydrates are also important after a workout. Consuming carbohydrates post workout helps to replenish your glycogen stores, which are your body’s go to source of energy. However, not all workouts use glycogen at the same rate. Endurance sports use more glycogen than resistance training, so if your goal is to build muscle through resistance training you'll need less carbohydrates post workout than someone training for a marathon. Carbohydrates are also more important post workout for those who train often because your glycogen stores are frequently depleted. Experts recommend consuming .5-.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes of training for optimal glycogen resynthesis. Carbohydrates post workout are best consumed alongside protein because this helps your body to produce insulin which promotes glycogen synthesis. Experts recommend consuming carbs in a 3:1 ratio to protein, for example consume 30 grams of protein and 90 grams of carbohydrates post workout. You should also be sure to include healthy fats, which help your leptin levels and help to keep you satiated. A sandwich, salad bowl, or chocho banana smoothie is the perfect way to get in carbs and proteins.
It is important to consume a meal rich in carbohydrates and proteins within 45 minutes of a workout to optimize your nutrient absorption. Carbohydrates help to replenish your glycogen stores while proteins help to rebuild your muscles. Hydration is also important, as it helps to aid in muscle flexibility and recovery. Consuming a balanced meal like a protein packed and carbohydrate rich chocho smoothie or a buddha bowl packed with protein from quinoa and a sauce like Chocho garlic crema is a great way to get in your carbohydrates and protein. These meals also provide heart healthy and leptin balancing fats, which will help you to feel satiated and energized.