Want to get the best results from your workout? Nutritionist Christine Bailey discusses the importance of post workout nutrition.
Whether you love your running, strength training or workouts at the gym what and when you eat after exercise matters. Exercise is a catabolic activity meaning protein breakdown rate rise sharply after your finish your workout. A post workout meal or snack helps to replenish energy stores, decrease protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis (muscle building). In other words, if you want to improve performance, recover quicker and repair any damage caused by exercise you need to think about post workout nutrition.
So, what should you eat?
Don’t Skimp on Protein
It doesn’t matter if you have just been out for a long run or endured a heavy weights session– your body needs protein. Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis rates, to support muscle building. If you want to build more muscle note that muscle gain can’t occur until your protein synthesis rate is greater than breakdown. Eating protein will help to do this. Studies suggest that around 20g is sufficient for maximising muscle protein synthesis. There are many ways to enjoy post workout protein. For example a protein shake (e.g Naturya Hemp Protein), Protein bar (e.g Cliff - White choc and macadamia or Bounce Salted Caramel), Biltong (e.g Smally’s Original), Greek yogurt with toasted seeds (e.g Munchy Seeds - Mega Omega) or a snack pack of cheese and nuts (e.g Curators Crunchy Cheddar Almond & Pecan) or toasted beans (e.g Honest Bean Co. - Salted or Salt & Vinegar). Chicken wraps, falafels with hummus or a pot of cottage cheese with oat cakes are other fuss free options.
Don’t Shun the Carbs
Don’t be afraid to include some carbs with your protein. Carbohydrates raise insulin which may aid muscle protein synthesis and recovery. They also help replenish glycogen stores and reduce fatigue. How much you need will depend on your workout and whether you are going to train again that same day but aim for around 0.8g per kg body weight or 30-40g (about the amount in a large banana). Whole fruit and smoothies are easy options. Berries in particular are a good choice being rich in anthocyanins which have been shown in research to accelerate recovery, reduce muscle soreness and increase blood flow for faster tissue repair. But if you are looking for something a little different try some of our snack options. How about Simpleas Pea Curl - Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar – a good combination of protein, carbs plus sodium which can be lost during exercise or for something sweet a fruity bar (we love Creative Nature bars).
For longer training sessions don’t overlook the importance of hydration. While it is likely you will be consuming fluids during exercise you still need to consider fluids post workout. Electrolyte drinks can be useful as they will also provide sodium, potassium and magnesium. But this doesn’t need to be a sports recovery drink – a couple of glasses of coconut water may be sufficient. Got tummy troubles? How about some Kombucha to nourish your gut bacteria?
When to Consume it?
It is a myth that you have to consume something within 30 mins of completing your exercise. Good news for anyone who doesn’t feel hungry straight away. Numerous studies have shown that protein synthesis is elevated for at least 24 hours after a workout and maybe longer. That said you may wish to include some protein within the first hour after exercise as this has been shown to improve recovery.
The importance of timing will also depend on when you last ate before your workout. If you train fasted in the morning it is likely your insulin and muscle protein synthesis levels are lower so it would make sense to eat soon after working out. But if you ate within a few hours of starting your workout timing is less important.
Having some portable healthy snacks in your gym bag means that whenever you plan your exercise you will never struggle with refueling properly.