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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.

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.

So come on let’s go for that protein shake. I’ll catch you guys at the bar!