You already know how important what you eat before your workout is, but what about after? Turns out, eating the proper food after a workout is equally vital in caring for your body and building strong muscle.
As we’ve learned, the best thing to eat before you exercise is a combination of a complex carbohydrates and high quality protein, about 30 minutes to an hour prior to hitting the gym. And it just so happens that similar rules apply after you work out. According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, you should attempt to eat this pairing of carbs and protein very soon after you finish your sweat session.
During exercise, the body uses up its store of glycogen (which is fuel stored in your muscles) in order to power you through the workout. This leaves you with a depleted reserve of glycogen, meaning that your body will have a much more difficult time repairing your muscles and keeping the metabolism humming. But studies show that eating the carb/protein duo after your workout solves this issue.
How soon you eat after your workout is important as well. Aim to consume a healthy coupling of carbs and protein within at least an hour of when you finish exercising. Why? The reason has been proven time and again by scientific studies – only two hours after your workout ends, the body loses its ability to replenish muscle stores of glycogen and mend the breakdown of muscles by half. That’s right – 50%! Ideally, try to eat within the first 45 minutes after you finish your workout, when the body is the most responsive to absorbing the carbs and protein.
Trying to build muscle quickly? Make sure to consume at least 30 grams of protein and around 30-35 grams of carbohydrates within the first 15 minutes after your training session. If your main goal is weight loss or maintenance, about 15-25 grams of protein and a similar amount of carbs should suffice, and you have a greater time window in which to consume it.
For a quick-to-prepare, easy-to-digest and extremely nutritious post-gym snack, try making a protein shake using a banana, one scoop of high caliber plant protein powder and eight ounces of water or almond milk (using almond milk will make the shake slightly creamier and adds calories). Other terrific options include sautéed or steamed veggies drizzled in olive oil, quinoa with black beans and spices mixed in or a walnut, beet and chickpea salad topped with a dressing made of olive oil and vinegar.
Of course, hydration is another crucial factor. Dehydration can cause cramps, fatigue, mental fog and headaches, as well as making your muscles feel heavy and sluggish. Not only should you drink water before and during your workout, but make sure to also down a good amount of H2O afterwards to help your body rehydrate. If you aren’t sure how much you should be drinking, try weighing yourself before and after you exercise. For every pound of water weight lost, drink 16 to 20 ounces of the clear stuff. Trust us – you will feel better and your body will thank you.
Now that you are educated about how to fuel your body before and after a workout, get ready to build strength and lean muscle – and feel even better while you do so!
Photo Credit: Getty Images
- Nora Tobin, Shape Magazine, “The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout,” http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/best-foods-eat-and-after-your-workout
- Lisa Freedman, Men’s Fitness, “Best Post-Workout Foods,” http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/best-post-workout-foods