Saturday, March 5, 2011

Post Workout Nutrition

When I was running 8 miles on weekdays and much longer on the weekends I began to physically crash daily. It was a horrible feeling. About an hour or more after my workout I would start to feel flu-ish. It would put me down flat. I would lay on the couch and not move for a very long time. I discovered that I was lacking in post workout nutrition.

The muscle can store much of its own energy. Exercise causes the muscle to feed on its own glycogen stores. Those glycogen stores become depleted and muscle fibers get broken down with exercise and they need to be built back up. This is done with a postworkout meal or drink. The best time to consume a postworkout drink or meal is immediately following a workout (within 45 minutes, the sooner the better) Exercise is like an insulin shot which gives the body a small window of opportunity. Insulin makes it possible for the body to take the nutrients that are consumed and store it directly in the muscle. Once the body returns back to normal that window of opportunity is gone and the process of rebuilding glycogen stores and muscle fibers is slowed.

With those horrible crashes I learned a great lesson that very much sticks with me today about not skipping the post-workout meal. When I suggest it to others I often see the "Ya right, I'm not going to consume more calories!" expression. It is difficult to explain in that moment about how exercise is a stressor and tears down the body and we need to give it the right materials at the right time to build itself back up to not only avoid crashing but increase the longevity of the muscle.

Good Fats, although good for the body, should be avoided in the post-workout meal since they slow digestion and we need speed to hit that "window". Refined carbs which are fast absorbing along with fast absorbing protein should be used (that is why I use whey). In my opinion, a simple drink of chocolate milk is a great, inexpensive, easy post-workout meal and has the right balance of carbs and proteins for the average person.

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