You go to the gym regularly. Or run. Or do yoga. You know all about protein and why it is essential for your body to function properly. Your post-workout snack is probably healthy (rather) – but is it balanced enough to help your body recover optimally? Nutritionist Amrita Kotak, founder of RealLife Nutrition gives us the truth.
What happens to your body during workout
During a workout, the body draws on its energy reserves in the liver and muscles (where energy is stored as glycogen) to fuel your workout.
Depending on the intensity and duration of the workout, your liver and muscle reserves can be considerably depleted and practically drained, especially the liver. Now, because the liver not only supplies your muscles, but also your brain and other vital organs, these reserves need to be replenished, stat.
This is where your post workout meal becomes essential. Its purpose is to start the process of refueling, recovery and repair of the body:
Refuel: The food you eat refills energy stores in the liver and muscles.
Recovery: Every system in your body is overworked when you exercise, and you need the extra energy to make up for that extra work and get back to normal.
Repair: Depending on the intensity and duration of your exercise, your muscles and bones undergo micro-wear that must be treated with the nutrients in the food you eat.
Protein provides the building blocks for all repair work in your body), there’s a good chance you’re focusing on it at the expense of another crucial nutrient – the good ol ‘carbs.
Also Read: The Best Post-Workout Stretches
In fact, you can even say that carbohydrates are more important than protein after training. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and are your body’s most basic source of fuel. If you don’t get enough of it in your diet, your body will break down your muscles to produce the glucose it needs. Which defeats the purpose of lifting all those weights.
Carbohydrates essentially ensure that your body is using protein properly. In fact, if you compare a meal of carbohydrates and protein to consuming pure protein after training, the person who eats the mixed meal will have better recovery and repair. And here’s an added bonus: While complex carbs are generally considered healthier, post-workout you actually want simple carbs that will replenish your energy stores.
Your post-workout snack
The ideal post-workout meal has a 3: 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio and should be consumed within 20 minutes of your workout for optimal results. This means 3g of carbohydrates for 1g of protein. If that’s just too mathematical, remember that your snack should contain both carbohydrates and protein, and include more carbohydrates than protein.
Some options that get the right proportion include:
- Whey / Soy / Egg protein powder in water + Dates / Raisins / Banana
- Toast + Egg / Paneer / Tofu
- Sweet chocolate milk
- Dal and rice
- Paneer / Tofu / Egg wrap
- Egguf Bhurji / Paneer Bhurji + Roti / Pao / Bread
- Granola / Cereals + Milk / Yurt
- Protein bar with dried fruits.
- Mango milkshake (or any fruit milkshake)
- A healthy brownie or cookie (made from a grain-based flour, which would serve as a source of carbohydrates, then protein powder, maybe milk, eggs depending on your preference)
What your post-workout snack shouldn’t include
Since the purpose of this meal is refueling and recovery, the food you eat should be digested quickly. Two nutrients that are generally good for you but want to avoid for this meal are fat and fiber. Both slow down the rate of digestion, so keep them as low as possible in the meal.
So while you could normally choose whole grain bread rather than white bread; a whole fruit on a fruit juice; or avoid white sugar altogether, you may be more flexible after a workout since you are trying to avoid fiber. After training, your body craves and is ready to use simple, easy-to-digest carbohydrates. Now who would have thought that your post workout French toast with maple syrup was really good for you?