Becoming a Spin Instructor provided me with lots of opportunity to speak with people about diet and exercise. What I found was a lot of misinformation out there or misconceptions on what is best for the body. Often, I discovered, people were not eating after their workouts. Either because they had errands to run after their class, they couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea of replacing all those calories after they had just burned them, or they just hadn’t thought about it or planned accordingly. If you’ve been following along with us, you know that we stress muscles are built in recovery. Therefore, eating is essential after a workout. Hold on! Before you go out and eat a three course breakfast with the works, know that WHAT you eat is also very important. Eating after a workout is about recovery and storage. Why? Simply put, you need to replace what you used up. While working out you are burning glycogen and fluid. These need to be replaced. Without doing so you slow or halt the recovery process and since you have drained your body of its glycogen stores your body will need to find another source of fuel. Your body will look to break down muscle to replace those energy stores, which is totally counterproductive to what you are doing. To prevent this and to aid in building muscle, you should be consuming protein and carbohydrates after a workout. Muscle tissue is damaged during intense prolonged exercise. Protein provides you with the amino acids necessary to rebuild that muscle tissue. Protein also increases the body’s absorption of water from the intestines which improves hydration to your muscles. Further, the amino acids in protein stimulate the immune system, giving you a little more protection from colds and infections. Carbs on their own are not beneficial to you. They will replace the glycogen, but when carbs are consumed with protein, the body stores 100% more muscle glycogen. Glycogen is what feeds the body with energy while working out. Having more of this stored up means the body will not look to break down muscle to provide sustained energy during intense workouts. And carbs alone do not provide the body with the necessary stuff to rebuild muscle tissue.
When to Eat
The first 15 minutes after a workout are crucial. The enzymes that help the body resynthesize muscle glycogen are working most intensely during that first 15 minutes. Waiting longer than this to eat, means a longer recovery time. However, if you can’t eat within that first 15 minutes, make sure you wait no longer than an hour after the workout to eat.
What to Eat
Remember to select foods rich in protein (almonds, eggs, chicken, turkey, protein shakes) and some carbs. The suggested ratio for carbs to protein is 4:1. Be leery of sports drinks. They are usually loaded with sugar and very little if any protein. You’re better off drinking water and eating some real food.
Post workout meals are not intended to be a regular sized meal. Portions do not need to be that big. It’s a small fist sized amount of food that you need to consume.
Lastly, avoid fats. Fats are difficult for your body to break down after a workout, meaning you’ll hold on to them longer.
Working out isn’t your opportunity to eat things you wouldn’t if you hadn’t worked out (sorry, but it’s true).
Suggestions: Apple with peanut butter or low-fat cheese, yogurt with granola or fruit, protein and fruit smoothie, Peanut butter and banana on rice cakes, chicken/turkey on a slice of whole wheat bread, handful of nuts and raisins, eggs, chicken breast