Proper nutrition can support and perhaps enhance performance. However sometimes we’ve given more thoughts to our pre-workout meal than our post-workout meal. Indeed, consuming the right nutrients AFTER an exercise is just as important as what you eat before.
During workouts, your body uses up glycogen storage in your muscles for fuel. In addition, some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down. After your workout, your body will automatically attempt to restore glycogen storage and repair the muscle proteins. Eating the right foods soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster.
Maybe you’re trying to shed pounds, or you fear that by eating too soon, you’ll lose all the benefits of your workout. But right after your exercise, your body is gasping for calories and nutrients. Getting food into your system within 30 to 45 minutes after your workout is ideal to keep blood sugar steady and prevent fatigue from setting in a few hours later. Therefore you can try eating a proper lunch within 30 to 45 minutes after your workout. If eating a big meal is not feasible, at least pack some nutrient-dense snacks in your bag to munch on right after.
As explained earlier, muscle protein breakdown during exercise is inevitable. The rate of breakdown depends on the type of exercise and your previous level of training (i.e. how fit you are). Eating enough protein after your workout gives your body building blocks it needs to rebuild and repair; It also gives your body extra nutrients to build new muscle tissues.
I’d recommend that eating at least 0.15 grams of protein per pound of body weight soon after a workout; if your activity is more strenuous or lengthy, try hitting 0.2 g per lb of body weight. That means for a 120-lb female runner, she needs at least 18 grams of protein after her run.
Yes, replenishing protein is crucial after a workout; replenishing glycogen storage is equally important. The rate of glycogen storage usage depends on your activity. For example, endurance sports (like marathon running) will use more glycogen than weight training. As carbohydrate needs are quite individualized depending on distance, as a general rule of thumb, the longer distance you run, the more carbohydrates you need to replenish after the workout and the replenishing period will remain longer. Banana, raisins, orange wedges, granola bars are all easy-to-pack snacks as a carbohydrate source. It is best to eat both protein and carb at the same time; this will maximize both protein and glycogen synthesis. Hence if you are unable to eat a proper meal right after, try at least supplementing with some snack foods that are rich in both nutrients (like a protein bar), or combine snack foods to get both nutrients (like a mini can of tuna + a fruit).
In addition, various and nuts and seeds can provide necessary protein for your post-workout needs. For instance, one ounce of almonds (approximately 23 pieces) can provide 6 grams of protein; 35 pieces of peanuts and 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds can also provide about the same amount of protein. Prepare a few snacks in accordance to your needs and store them in your backpack. Not only can these snacks provide proper nutrition to repair your body immediately after, they can also help prepare your body to recover faster and get back to training as soon as possible.