One of the most often asked questions I get as a personal trainer is, “What type of meal should I have after my workout?” The post exercise meal is the most crucial, but I am also going to discuss what to consume before and during a workout. There is a science to all of this, so just remember a little effort will go along way.
The pre-workout meal will ensure adequate energy stores are available for your exercise session. This meal should be consumed about 1 – 2 hours before you begin the session. The Journal of Nutrition reported that consuming a low glycemic index meal prior to a workout increases fat mobilization during exercise. Some low glycemic index foods include apples, grapefruit, lima beans, green beans, chickpeas, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice. Also, make sure you are well hydrated, water is fine, a sports drink is not necessary at this point. If this meal is skipped fatigue will set in shortly after your workout begins and you will not reach your full potential.
During the Workout
Water is sufficient to consume during your workouts lasting less then an hour and it is extremely important to stay hydrated. Once you pass that 1 hour threshold, a sports drink, such as PowerAde, may be helpful to replenish electrolytes that are lost through sweat.
As mentioned earlier, this meal is the most crucial of the three. Preparing for this meal is detrimental to the overall results of your fitness program. What and when you consume after your workout can effect your muscle mass, glycogen (energy) stores and performance of your next workout. A study in the Journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found that timing is extremely important when ingesting protein and carbs after exercise. Thirty minutes to 1 hour after resistance training your muscles are primed to replenish nutrients lost during exercise. Consumption of protein during this time frame enhances muscle synthesis. A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that ingesting 30 grams of high quality protein within 60 minutes of leg extension repetitions enhanced muscle synthesis by 108%.
Now that we see the proof of protein, where do we go from here? There are so many types of protein powders it can be overwhelming when trying to choose one. Most studies show that milk protein, especially whey protein, are most advantageous in increasing muscle hypertrophy. It is crucial to consume proteins that contain the amino acid leucine, which is a key stimulator of muscle building. Leucine occurs naturally in whey protein. Those with milk allergies need to avoid whey but most with lactose intolerance can consume whey without side effects.
Carbs are also important to consume in the 30 minutes to 1 hour time frame after a bout of exercise, especially if any type of endurance exercise is performed. This is when glycogen stores are most efficiently replaced. The muscles, in this window of opportunity, are like sponges and will absorb carbs to ensure your muscles will have enough energy to sustain your next workout. I take in about 25 grams of carbs after my workouts but some recommend as many as 50-60 grams.
My favorite post exercise meal is a protein shake with a banana. I use Optimum Nutrition’s double rich chocolate, Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. I blend 1 scoop of powder with a very ripe frozen banana. I freeze the banana once it is almost all brown, by freezing it I do not have to use ice in the blender and the shake is creamer than when ice is used. This protein powder can be purchases at GNC stores or the http://www.vitaminshoppe.com, as well as other health food stores.
Waiting too long to consume your post exercise meal will result in slowed carb replenishment, slowed protein repair and early on set of fatigue the next time you workout.
The intake of unsaturated fats is an important aspect of daily nutrition but should be left out of the post exercise meal. Fat can decrease the effectiveness of the meal because fat slows down the transition through the stomach which then would slow the digestion and absorbtion of carbs and protein.
Fluid replenishment is of great importance at this time and throughout the day. Make sure you drink lots of water to replace what you have lost through sweat.
Nutrition is as important as the workout. These meals all have a role to play and it is up to you to make the most of your fitness program. All it takes is a little planning and preparation and you are on your way to a healthier, more fit you.