As much as it is important to eat the right nutrients before performing exercise, it’s just as important to eat after you’ve finished your workout in order to replenish your body.
There’s no doubt you’ll have worked up an appetite while exercising, which can leave you feeling ravenous afterwards. If you’ve been to gym, it might be tempting to stop at a take-away or fast-food joint on your way home, but this won’t work wonders for your body and will leave you feeling lethargic and bloated.
Not just this, but eating too much of these foods will also have an adverse effect on your body, causing it to store the food as fat, rather than helping to build and repair muscles.
Instead, ensure you’re incorporating these nutrients into your post-workout meal:
Eating a combination of protein and a little carbohydrates immediately or 30 minutes to an hour after exercise will help to repair, build and recover muscles that were broken down, which contributes towards keeping your metabolism burning strong. It is recommended to eat 15-25 g of high quality protein in the first hour after training.
Protein is an essential nutrient that’s responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, for example muscle tissue.
Adding high-quality protein to your post-workout meal or snack will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and begin the muscle rebuilding and repairing process. Foods that are a rich source of protein include tuna, beans, tofu and lentils.
During exercise, your body’s glycogen stores – that serve as a form of energy – are broken down, meaning it’s important to refill them after.
Your body also needs carbohydrates after exercise in order to replace the glycogen you used up and to prepare you for your next workout. This is because carbohydrates are an important source of energy.
When your body digests carbohydrates, it converts them into glucose, which is then used to provide energy to your cells, tissues and organs.
Depending on the intensity of training, the amount of food that should be eaten after exercise can differ. Professional athletes consume up to 7 to 12 g per kg body mass, which would mean for a 70 kg athlete around 350-840 g of carbohydrates per day.
In the first hour after exercise the glycogen synthesis is the greatest and therefore it is recommended to eat 1-1.2 g carbohydrates per kg body mass (70 kg athlete = 70-84 g) during that time to refill the glycogen storage most efficiently.
Good sources of carbohydrates to eat after exercise include brown rice, quinoa and whole grain bread.
As well as losing glycogen during exercise, your body will also lose about four cups of fluid after moderate activity. Remember, therefore, to drink plenty of water afterwards to aid the recovery process. It’s a good idea to weigh yourself before and after exercise. It is recommended to drink 125-150 per cent of your estimated fluid loss with weighing in the 4-6 hours after the training session.
Heavily sweating and long duration of exercise (more than one hour) also causes your body to lose minerals and electrolytes, so it’s worth drinking a sports drink to replace them, as these contain a supply of good electrolytes. If your workout doesn’t exceed one hour, refilling with water is sufficient and it is not needed to buy a special sports drink.