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Are you eating anything post-workout? You should be! Here is why post-workout nutrition is so important!

So, you have decided to start investing your money in a gym membership and your time in actually going to the gym this year. You have decided on the best gym for you for the value and the best time of day for you to go. You are a very busy person so this investment of time is a stretch in your schedule. However, being healthier in 2017 is your number one priority. Maybe you want to be healthier because you have kids and you want to be around for a while. Maybe your goal is to look good in that swimsuit this summer, or, maybe your goal is to get stronger and improve your WOD times in Crossfit. Whatever your goal I can assure you post-workout nutrition should be included.

Many acquaintances/friends, and even clients, I talk to are not consuming anything post-workout. When I ask them why I hear several different responses. Some say they don’t because, well, they just don’t. Others say they don’t because it feels counterproductive to everything they just did in the gym. And then, there are those who say they don’t because they just don’t know what to eat. If you fall into one of these categories, you aren’t alone. Let’s talk about why post-workout nutrition is so important.

Why is a post-workout meal necessary?

Since you are investing all this time in the gym, or you plan to start, I want to make sure you are maximizing that time and yielding the greatest return on investment. Post-workout nutrition, among other things which I will write about later, will help you capitalize on your investment of those precious hours in the gym.

Building muscle, increasing strength and decreasing fat are usually what people want to do in the gym. When people say, “I just want to tone up”, that in fact means build muscle (contrary to popular belief), increase strength and decrease fat. If this is what we desire we must start exercising, right? Right! Well, exercise by nature is a significant physiological stressor. Whether the form of exercise is running or lifting weights in the gym we are probably going to feel symptoms of this stressor. These symptoms include muscle soreness, an increased appetite and the need for extra sleep. When we feel these symptoms, it is our body letting us know that we have caused some minor damage (which is a good thing if only for a short period), depleted the fuel resources in our muscles (also a good thing), and need restock and restoration. These symptoms we experience are telling us our muscles need replenishment to adapt. After all, the goal of exercise (cardio or strength training) is to tear down the old, less adapted muscle fibers and replace it with new, more functional ones for increased performance. Just like a car can’t continue to run without oil or on an empty tank of gas, our muscles can’t function correctly without proper nutrition.

What Happens to Our Muscles During and After Exercise?

During exercise your body is choosing carbohydrates as its fuel. Once finished, assuming you train hard, your carbohydrate storages are depleted, leaving your muscles empty of glycogen storages. If these storages are not replaced you will experience increased muscle soreness and fatigue. You could choose to leave your muscles in this state, however, I assure you, over time your body will become tired, sore, unable to perform at maximum effort, and, if that wasn’t enough, your body will refuse to change.

In addition to the depletion of carbohydrate storages, your muscle protein is degraded during exercise and after exercise the rate of protein synthesis decreases while the rate of protein breakdown increases. Obviously, this is counterproductive to building muscle, increasing strength and decreasing body fat.

Okay, Okay, I get it. But What Should I Eat Exactly?

Simply put, carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will promote an insulin response that helps shuttle those carbs and amino acids into the muscle to promote carbohydrate synthesis and a positive protein balance. This leads to rapid repair of the muscle tissue. Consuming protein post-workout will increase protein synthesis (instead of decreasing it) and decrease protein breakdown. Carbohydrates combined with protein is the perfect recipe for optimal recovery.

What about fat?

While I am a huge fan of healthy fats in people’s diets, I am not a fan of fat consumption post-workout. Fat slows the absorption of nutrients through the stomach and into the body. We do not want slow absorption post-workout. We need rapid absorption of our post-workout macronutrients.

When do I eat this?

Once you have finished your workout there is a period-of-time we like to call the “window of opportunity.” During this time your muscles need serious replenishment and are primed to absorb those necessary nutrients. The farther away from your workout you consume your post-workout meal the less effective that meal becomes and the more you diminish your opportunity for complete recovery. My suggestion is eat within 30 minutes of your workout. No exceptions.

Follow these guidelines and I assure you your investment of time and money will go further! Can’t wait to hear about your results!