Health & Habits
Posted July 20, 2021
Post-workout nutrition is one of the most important aspects of our exercise routines, and for good reason. After our workouts, we can become physically depleted, dehydrated, and mentally exhausted. Therefore, our nutrition for recovery should aim to meet three primary goals: refuel, rehydrate, and repair. Replenishing vital nutrients, rehydrating and restoring electrolyte balance, and repairing damaged muscle tissue accomplish these goals. Adequate recovery is critical for us to better respond to increases in training volume and intensity.
Following exercise, we must consider when, what, and how much to eat and drink - all of which play crucial roles in our recovery nutrition plan. There are many factors at play, such as our type of training, health history, body composition, and physical conditioning. “Nutrient timing” - or the timing of nutrients delivered to the body - becomes critical when we decide what to consume after a workout.
Studies suggest muscle is most responsive to nutrient intake within an hour after a workout, but even as this metabolic window of opportunity diminishes as time passes, certain types of exercise, such as resistance training, keep the window open for up to 48 hours. Therefore, we must be cognizant of what we consume each day and when. Physical training takes place in succinct bouts, but the nutrition segment of a training program extends to all waking hours and must include the replenishment of several nutrients to promote post-exercise recovery.
When we eat carbohydrates, our body changes them into a form of sugar called ‘glucose’ which is then changed to glycogen. Glycogen, which is stored in the muscles, is the main fuel source we must restore following strenuous training. Muscle glycogen is the predominant fuel source used during long bouts of aerobic exercise, and once it’s depleted, fatigue ensues. After a workout, ingesting carbohydrates can increase muscle glycogen stores, and some great options include potatoes, whole grains, and legumes.
Our fluid and electrolyte losses post-workout are also crucial factors to monitor. One easy way to track this is simply by monitoring both the quantity and color of our urine. A light yellow color (like lemonade) indicates healthy hydration, but a darker color (like apple juice) may indicate dehydration. Moreover, post-workout fluids or meals should contain sodium, particularly for those of us who sweat a lot. To combat this, we can simply add lemon and pink himalayan salt to a glass of water, choose a (non-sugary) sports drink that contains sodium, or just drink a glass of water alongside a meal with sodium.
To repair and build muscle, we must ingest high-protein foods immediately following exercise, especially after resistance training. We should consume 20 to 40g of protein (including 3 to 4g of the amino acid leucine) to increase muscle protein synthesis. While it’s important to replenish the body with protein immediately after exercise, it’s also crucial to continuously consume protein-rich foods each day to stimulate whole-body protein synthesis.
A protein shake is a great option for post-workout fuel, not only for its amino acid composition, but also for the speed in which those acids release into the bloodstream. Vedge Plant Protein offers an organic blend of proteins created to bring together the optimal amino acid profile for muscle protein synthesis. The main base - peas - contain leucine, which has been shown to create superior absorption, and each serving also contains 270mg of sodium to help replenish what may have been lost during exercise.
Many of us often overlook the importance of carbohydrate intake for building and repairing muscle. Carbohydrates can decrease muscle protein breakdown by stimulating insulin release, so we can benefit tremendously from consuming both carbohydrates and protein after strenuous workouts. Some examples include oatmeal with banana, pita and hummus, or toast with almond butter.
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF!
Aragon, Alan Albert, and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. “Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 10,1 5. 29 Jan. 2013, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-5
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