With almost 20% of American women involved in sports or exercise every day, it’s essential that post-exercise nutrition is effective and healthy. There are lots of post-workout favorites we can enjoy, but getting the right nutrition can affect more than just our rumbling stomachs. Not eating after exercise, or eating the wrong foods, can affect our recovery, muscle repair, and blood sugar levels. Even on a packed schedule, there are certain quick and easy foods available for optimal recovery.
What are the risks of poor post-workout nutrition?
It can be a huge risk to our health not to eat after exercise. Inadequate refueling can lead to a lack of glucose to the brain resulting in low mood and a decrease in alertness or concentration. When blood sugar levels drop it can also cause us to feel lightheaded or shaky. Muscles need protein to repair after exercise and it aids recovery and reduces soreness. A lack of adequate nutrition may negatively affect your next workout and performance, and no one wants that!
Protein or carbohydrates?
Factors such as the time of day and the type and intensity of the exercise can affect your post-workout choices. A quick stroll in the park does not mean that can indulge in a three-course meal laden with calories. A general rule is to eat about thirty to sixty minutes after exercise so that you’re not eating too soon and to avoid getting cramps. Protein breakdown of old, damaged proteins occurs when you workout, so it's important to include protein post exercise to construct new protein and repair muscles. Carbohydrates are required to replenish the stores of muscle fuel. Researchers have found that combining protein and carbohydrates in the same meal post-exercise can help to restore glycogen stores because it promotes greater rates of insulin secretion. Protein and carbohydrates such as eggs, multi-grain bread, lean meat, tuna, quinoa are all effective post-exercise.
The magic of smoothies
There’s no point taking the time and effort to exercise just to ruin the benefits with snacks high in sugar or processed foods. This doesn't mean that you can never treat yourself, but it needs to be a treat rather than a post-exercise habit. Smoothies are a healthy option regardless of the type of exercise and a blend that contains bananas is a great source of potassium and nutrients. A small amount of protein powder can be added for an extra protein boost. Add avocados, kale, or an apple and throw in any fruit which is high in Vitamin A or C to aid muscle repair.
What about Vegans?
A vegan diet follows the same principles for post-workout recovery and diet but includes plant protein rather than animal protein. It’s beneficial to include lentils, tofu, seeds, nuts, whole grains, beans, and soy yogurt in one's diet. Again, smoothies are great post-exercise nutrition as are multi-seed crackers or bread.
If you're looking for optimal recovery and the best performance possible, then it is vital to combine the right protein and carbohydrates no more than an hour after exercise. Hydration is essential too. For your body to function well, it is essential to provide it with the appropriate fuel. And it certainly doesn't have to be boring. There are so many post-workout nutritional options out there and it's fun to experiment with new recipes and smoothie ideas for a better recovery.