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Why is it important to know what to eat after a workout?

After a workout, what you eat can have a huge effect on how your body recovers. If you don't recover well, the next time you exercise, you wont be able to push as hard and therefore you wont be able to improve as much as you could.

Carbohydrates

The process that your body will be going through to replace your exhausted glycogen levels is called glycogen synthesis. When you eat carbohydrate foods, like some tasty rice or pasta, your body digests it, converts it to glycogen, and stores it in your muscles to use as energy for when you next need it.

Basically, the quicker you can refill your glycogen stores, the greater your recovery will be, allowing you to recover to the same performance level in the fastest amount of time. It will also lower the amount of muscle pain (soreness) you experience.

Foods with the greatest impact on glycogen synthesis rates are also easily digested, such as white rice, potato, heck! even corn flakes.

The first couple of hours after exercise are especially important to refill your glycogen stores. Your body is able to transform carbohydrate foods into glycogen, much quicker after exercising than under normal conditions. Just don’t overindulge or that glucose will be stored as unwanted fat!

Protein

In order to rebuild your muscle, either during endurance or resistance exercise, sufficient protein intake is absolutely vital, as scoffing protein will ensure that the muscle is ‘repaired’ after a workout.

It’s well identified that consistent resistance training will raise muscle protein synthesis and as such increase muscle growth. Making sure that you eat a daily protein consumption will further improve this.

The Anabolic Window

Have you heard about the anabolic window? This is meant to be the optimal time to take protein after a workout. Anabolic relates to muscle building, so this implies that it’s the ideal moment to consume muscle building protein. This “window” appears to be in the first hour after a training session. Huh! So that’s why you see people rushing to grab a protein shake after their workout. (But research indicates that this window of opportunity extends a bit further than the original hour slot, so don’t feel like you need to rush to get your protein fix!).
That being said, there is not a whole lot of evidence to prove that protein intake within an hour has any negative effect on building muscle and recovery, and that post-workout shake can be a really convenient and tasty way to quickly get your protein in (Have you seen all the flavours!). So ingesting a protein shake within an hour or so after exercise and then enjoying a high-protein meal within 3 hours or so, would be an ideal recovery plan.

What is the best food to eat after a workout?

The best food to eat after a workout is a combination of carbohydrates and protein. This combination helps replenish glycogen stores, repair and build muscle tissue, and aid in overall recovery. Adding in some healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts and seeds gives an extra nutrient boost.

Good examples of post-workout foods include Greek yogurt and fruit with some nuts, a peanut butter sandwich, a lean meat (or vegetable protein) sandwich on whole grain bread, salmon with avocado and eggs, a wholewheat tortilla with hummus.

Will I lose muscle if I don’t eat after a workout?

If you don’t eat after a workout it won’t result in immediate muscle loss, but there are long-term consequences due to your body potentially starting to use muscle as fuel for energy instead of food. Muscles may not get the necessary nutrients needed to recover and also grow, and skipping a meal after workout can also result in low energy and dehydration – neither of which are fun or healthy!