Ben Emanuel II
Exercise alone isn’t enough to keep you fit. Food will ultimately serve as fuel to your body. And without the right food, your body is most likely not going to perform at its best.
And timing your meals is among the most important aspects of optimizing your hard work. You even see athletes hiring nutritionists to be able to eat the right food right after a difficult workout.
But just how important is a post-workout meal? The fitness industry spends a huge amount of money on supplements that can help them improve their physique and performance. Whey protein, which is arguably the most popular post-workout supplement, had a global market value of $7.7 billion in 2016. If the trend followed its average 4% growth, it would reach $9 billion by 2021.
Though supplements help you build your muscles and recover from strenuous activities, supplements such as whey protein aren't exactly intended to replace food. It can't provide you with enough nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber—things that are present in healthy food options.
What should your post-workout meal look like? What are your options?
What you eat after your workout is important because your body used its resources to finish the exercises. Calories were burned while your muscle used glycogen as fuel. And right after a workout, your muscles are already looking for the right nutrients that will help rebuild its glycogen stores and repair muscle proteins.
Without the right food, you won't be able to optimize your recovery. You'll need a longer recovery time and even notice slower progress.
One of the biggest misconceptions about designing a post-workout meal is to deny the body of carbohydrates completely. Carbohydrates have the ability to restore your glycogen stores. However, the ideal amount of carbohydrates that you consume will ultimately depend on the type of workout that you are doing. Endurance activities tend to use more glycogen stores than resistance training.
Next, you also need to make sure that you have a high-protein meal right after your workout. Protein breaks down into amino acid which then repairs the muscle proteins. It can also help build new muscles.
How much protein should you be eating? As a rule of thumb, 0.14 to 0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight is ideal. It means that you need to take 19.6 to 32 grams of protein if you weigh around 140 pounds.
The timing is also another important factor that you need to account for. Experts suggest that you should be taking your post-workout meal within 45 minutes after a workout. Some studies also suggest that you should combine your protein and carbs after a workout to be able to get the best results.
Chicken breast is a staple food for every bodybuilder for a reason. Chicken breast is lean meat which means that it doesn’t contain fats that can slow down the process of absorption in your body. For every 100 grams of chicken breast, you will get around 31 grams of protein from it.
You may have seen old movies where they eat the entire egg (even raw) after a strenuous workout. If you are thinking of discarding the yolk because it contains fat, there is a study that might change your mind. It has been discovered that eating the entire egg can help the muscles recover better than just eating the egg white.
Though the experts haven't pointed out what's in the whole egg that makes it a better post-workout food than just egg whites, they suspect that it's "food synergy” that is causing this. Beyond fats, whole eggs contain vitamins A, D, E, and K. You also have iron and phosphorus.
Tuna contains around 28 grams of protein per 100 grams making it a good alternative to chicken, especially for pescatarians. Apart from getting your protein, it is also rich in vitamins A, B6, and B12, not to mention omega-3 fatty acids that can help in inflammation.
Steak is another good option if you are looking to build muscles. Steak contains around 25 grams of protein per 100 grams. Unfortunately, you might want to eat this together with other easy to absorb protein-rich foods.
Steak has complex proteins that are hard to digest. It means that it would take time before your body gets to use the amino acids. However, if your goal is to maintain a steady supply of amino acids on your body even a few hours after your workout, then this is a good food that you can incorporate in your post-workout meal.
Brown rice can help replenish your body's glycogen stores. If used together with protein-rich food, then you have a good post-workout meal. Brown rice is ideal because you also want fiber in your diet. And between white rice and brown rice, the latter has more fiber. Brown rice is also richer in B-complex vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
You also won't go wrong if you include vegetables and fruits in your post-workout meal. This will not only provide you with the necessary fiber in your diet, but this can also give you the micronutrients that your body needs. Fruits and vegetables can play a major role in cellular recovery, it can also help improve your body's ability to fight the negative effects of fatigue and prevent infections especially once your body's immune system goes down right after a workout.
What you eat after your workout has an impact on your progress. With the right food, not only does it help you recover better, it can also help you see better results on your workouts. By choosing the right combination of foods that we've mentioned, there is even a chance that you no longer need to have supplements to ensure that your body is going to recover well after a workout.
So what’s your favorite post-workout meal? Let us know in the comment section below!