The Best Post-Workout Carbs

July 7, 2012

Must See Nutrition Videos

A common myth is that recovery foods consumed after a tough workout should consist solely of protein sources. This is partially true, but it's equally important to have a source of carbohydrates post-workout.

During exercise, your muscles use a combination of glucose (usable energy) and glycogen (stored energy). When these stores become depleted, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which breaks down muscle to convert protein into more glucose.

Consuming carbs post-workout not only limits cortisol production, it also allows your body to produce insulin. Insulin is an anabolic hormone that works to build muscle. Carbohydrates trigger the body to make insulin, which decreases the amount of cortisol produced, therefore decreasing muscle breakdown.

The types of carbs you consume have an effect on this reaction. In general, you want to consume carbohydrates that are lower on the glycemic index (GI), like beans and whole grains, because since they take longer to digest, they do not cause an insulin spike. But following a workout, you should do the opposite by choosing carbs higher on the glycemic index, because they are more rapidly digested and therefore cause an increase in insulin production. High glycemic carbs include some breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, pretzels and some fruits. Pairing these high-GI carbs with protein will provide the best post-workout snack.

Examples include:

• Salted pretzels with peanut butter
• Potato with plain yogurt
• Trail mix with cereal and nuts
• Fruit smoothie with milk
• String cheese and crackers

For best results, try to eat within 30 to 45 minutes following your workout.

Resources:
Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition, by John Ivy and Robert Portman
Glycemic Index

Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...
Kait Fortunato
- Kait Fortunato is a registered dietitian at Rebecca Bitzer & Associates, a large and experienced nutrition practice in Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations...

Featured Videos

Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 153,019
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 80,502
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,270,518
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,626,320
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,170,372
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,683
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,256
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,395

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

11 Easy Tricks for Drinking More Water

The Performance-Wrecking Flaw of Low-Carb and High-Carb Diets

The Performance-Wrecking Flaw of Low-Carb and High-Carb Diets

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

Fuel Your Performance with Peas

Fuel Your Performance with Peas

4 Endomorph Diet Strategies to Accelerate Fat Loss

4 Endomorph Diet Strategies to Accelerate Fat Loss

Is Fast Food Effective for Recovery? A New Study Says So

Is Fast Food Effective for Recovery? A New Study Says So

How Can Zero-Calorie Diet Soda Be Bad for You?

How Can Zero-Calorie Diet Soda Be Bad for You?

Fuel Up for Soccer Like the U.S. Women's National Team

Fuel Up for Soccer Like the U.S. Women's National Team

Why Your Gut Might Be the Most Important Part of Your Body

Why Your Gut Might Be the Most Important Part of Your Body

Halftime Snacks for Quick Refueling

Halftime Snacks for Quick Refueling

Pro Bowl Nutrition Plan from NFL QB Andrew Luck

Pro Bowl Nutrition Plan from NFL QB Andrew Luck

What is Whey Protein?

What is Whey Protein?

Eat Like a Champion, Part 3: Post-Workout Nutrition

Eat Like a Champion, Part 3: Post-Workout Nutrition

Are 'Healthy Chips' Really Healthy? 5 Popular Options Examined

Are 'Healthy Chips' Really Healthy? 5 Popular Options Examined

9 Foods You Didn't Know Have as Much Protein as Peanut Butter

9 Foods You Didn't Know Have as Much Protein as Peanut Butter

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Pizzeria Menu

Healthy Eating at Restaurants: Decoding a Pizzeria Menu

Sun-Blockers: 8 Foods to Eat for Sun Protection

Sun-Blockers: 8 Foods to Eat for Sun Protection

Are Chokeberries the Next Super Food for Athletes?

Are Chokeberries the Next Super Food for Athletes?

Big Breakfast, Small Breakfast, No Breakfast: Which Is Best?

Big Breakfast, Small Breakfast, No Breakfast: Which Is Best?

Why Are People Drinking Charcoal?

Why Are People Drinking Charcoal?

The Healthiest Ways to Prepare Your Vegetables

The Healthiest Ways to Prepare Your Vegetables

How to Stay Hydrated With Food During Your Summer Runs

How to Stay Hydrated With Food During Your Summer Runs

Feed for Speed: 5 Foods and Supplements That Make You Faster

Feed for Speed: 5 Foods and Supplements That Make You Faster

Quick On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

Quick On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

The Right Way to Gain Weight During the Off-Season

The Right Way to Gain Weight During the Off-Season

J.J. Watt Eats More for Breakfast than You Eat in a Week

J.J. Watt Eats More for Breakfast than You Eat in a Week

How Saturated Fats Affect Sports Performance

How Saturated Fats Affect Sports Performance

Fuel Up Properly for Soccer Tournaments

Fuel Up Properly for Soccer Tournaments

Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

Should You Drink a Protein Shake Before Bed?

Is It Okay to Eat the Same Thing Every Day?

Is It Okay to Eat the Same Thing Every Day?

The Soccer Tournament Nutrition Checklist

The Soccer Tournament Nutrition Checklist

12 Grab-and-Go High Protein Snacks

12 Grab-and-Go High Protein Snacks

Why Every Athlete Should Drink Tea

Why Every Athlete Should Drink Tea

Performance-Boosting Snacks with a Satisfying Crunch

Performance-Boosting Snacks with a Satisfying Crunch

High-Protein Snacks for Athletes With Nut Allergies

High-Protein Snacks for Athletes With Nut Allergies

Surprising Muscle-Building Snacks

Surprising Muscle-Building Snacks

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

STACK Simple Cooking for Young Athletes: How to Cook Eggs

STACK Simple Cooking for Young Athletes: How to Cook Eggs

The Best Times to Drink a Protein Shake

The Best Times to Drink a Protein Shake

5 Changes Fast-Food Restaurants Are Making to Become Healthier

5 Changes Fast-Food Restaurants Are Making to Become Healthier

How 100 Pro Athletes Like Their Eggs

How 100 Pro Athletes Like Their Eggs

YardBarker