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What Should I Be Eating After My Workout?

How to Get Better Sleep: Ask the Sleep Doctor

Quality fitness is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, regardless of your age. A combination of routine exercise and nutritious meals give you both the energy and motivation you need to take on your day as well as the “good tired” we all look for to sleep soundly at night. In fact, a healthy exercise and diet plan has been shown to not only promote good sleeping habits but also to treat sleep disorders.

Of course, preparing a good workout is an important first step in the right direction. But whether your goal is to lose weight or put on weight, to bulk up or tone up, to rehabilitate your body or become more flexible, faster and resilient than ever before, the food you consume will determine the quality of the results you see. Without a healthy meal schedule, you can end up diminishing or offsetting the effects of your workouts in more ways than you may imagine.

Although many gym-goers often focus on pre-workout meals to fuel them through a grueling routine as well as supplements to maximize the effects of their efforts, the food you eat after a good workout is just as crucial for optimization and recovery. A balanced post-workout meal is essential to rehydrating your body, speeding up the healing process, easing up muscle soreness and allowing your immune system to catch up and do its job.

Now, pre-workout meals are fairly straightforward: They are all about fueling the body with carbs, fats and proteins that strengthen and activate your muscles during exercise. On the other hand, post-workout meals can be a bit more complicated or, at the very least, technical, given that they have strict concepts such as glycogen replacement and the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio.

But, first, let’s cover the basics.

When Should You Eat?

Many gym rats are eager to eat after a workout not just because they’ve worked up an appetite by burning a substantial amount of calories but also because they’re afraid of letting their body “eat itself” and losing important gains as a result.

Although early research suggested the benefits of eating immediately after a workout—as in 15 to 30 minutes—, more recent studies have shown the element of urgency is actually not so important in reaping the benefits of exercise. Plain and simple: It’s not detrimental to your health if you cannot rush to the kitchen post-workout. As long as you eat within a reasonable amount of time after exercising—most experts agree on a two-hour window—, you can still reap all the benefits of a post-workout meal.

What Should You Eat?

We eat after a workout to help our muscles recover and replenish our expended energy. More specifically, we need to replace the glycogen reserves we used up during our sweat session. Glycogen, or stored glucose is your main source of energy. When your body needs an extra boost of energy, enzymes break down glycogen into glucose and send it to various parts of your anatomy.

So, how exactly do we restore our used-up glycogen and get back to a full tank?

By consuming carbohydrates and proteins, carbohydrates replenish your expended glycogen, thus building your energy and stability back up while proteins are building blocks that regenerate and rebuild the muscles that you broke down during your workout. These two components combined allow you to get up the next day feeling refreshed (although sore!), see the growth and toning you’ve worked hard to achieve and build an overall stronger, more energetic and more resilient body that’s receptive to the changes that you’re putting it through.

Some of the earliest research on post-workout fitness referenced chocolate milk as the ultimate recovery drink and meal replacement after a workout! Why? Because chocolate milk has the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which is 3:1. More recent studies suggest that this ratio can handle quite a few deviations to become “perfect” with many researchers now touting that the ideal ratio can be as high as 6:1, so long as your level of activity and body type warrant that amount of carb intake.

What Else?

Although carbs and proteins are recognized as the most important elements of a post-workout meal, there are other factors that shouldn’t be ignored if you’re attempting to maximize the effectiveness of your workout efforts. For example, sodium lost through sweat and even a moderate amount of fats can be essential to building a robust post-workout meal.

To understand what type of diet works best for your body and the goals you’re trying to reach, you may need a seasoned professional to help. At Benessair Health, we have an entire team of fitness instructors, dieticians, physical therapists and board-certified specialized physicians who are dedicated to helping you become the healthiest, most energetic and confident version of yourself for an entire lifetime.

Visit us today to find out how we can support your journey to wellness through one of our many tailored programs and treatments!

Benessair Wellness Medical Center