Eating after a workout is essential!
A common myth is that recovery foods consumed after a challenging workout should consist solely of protein sources. This is partially true, but it’s equally important to have a source of carbohydrates post-workout.
Carbs Help With Recovery
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, decreasing the amount of cortisol produced, decreasing muscle breakdown.
It’s essential to eat carbs and protein after your workout.
Doing this helps your body:
- Decrease muscle protein breakdown
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth)
- Restore glycogen stores
- Enhance recovery
Different Types of Carbohydrates
The types of carbs you consume affect this reaction. In general, you want to consume carbohydrates 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 breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, pretzels, and fruits. Pairing these high-GI carbs with protein will provide the best post-workout snack.
Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice
- Egg omelet with avocados on whole-grain toast
- Salmon and sweet potatoes
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread
- Oatmeal, with, bananas
- Cottage cheese and fruits
- Pita and Hummus and vegetables
- Greek yogurt, berries, and granola
- Protein shake
- Quinoa bowl with sweet potatoes, berries, and pecans
- Whole-grain crackers with string cheese and fruit
Try to eat within 30 to 45 minutes following your workout for best results.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before and after your workout!