Q: Is it important to eat straight after a workout and, if so, what sort of food should I be eating to support muscle recovery and growth?
A: What you do immediately after your workout is a vital factor in your bodybuilding success. It is at this time that the body is primed for optimum uptake of nutrients. The workout has traumatized your muscles, torn them down and depleted your glycogen levels. Your body is not only crying out for nutrition to reverse these conditions, it is actually ready to utilize them a lot more efficiently. For instance, protein synthesis is enhanced and carbohydrates are converted to glycogen up to 125% more efficiently immediately after a workout. Studies also indicate that a decent carb/protein ratio meal immediately after the workout will enhance insulin and growth hormone levels. If you’re not taking advantage of these conditions, then you’re cheating your potential.
Immediately after your workout, your body needs water. During the workout you’ve lost a lot of it through sweating, but even more through its uptake by your internal organs. Thirst is not an indicator of your water needs at this stage. Not only will water keep you hydrated, but also this amazing liquid is also crucial in the formation and release of ATP. And every gram of carbohydrate that is stored as glycogen in the body requires 4 mls. of water to do that job. So, the first thing to do post workout is to get plenty of water into your body.
The next priority is carbohydrate. Immediately after the workout you need to elevate your blood sugar levels with fast acting carbs. Choose a liquid carbohydrate mix with maltodextrin or dextrose. High Glycemic index fruits like bananas are also a great choice.
Protein is utilized up to 50% more efficiently immediately after a workout. So, why wouldn’t you get 30-50 grams of quality protein into your system at this time? With just a little planning you can take advantage of this fantastic window of opportunity. But you’ve got to act fast. Within an hour of your workout, that window is firmly shut.
Many people find it difficult to eat immediately after a workout. That’s because the stress of exercise virtually shuts down our food absorption system. And, it’s the reason that taking your post workout carbs and protein in the form of liquid supplementation is the smartest, and easiest way to go. Look for a formulation that will give you about 40 grams of protein and 70 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Mix it up, pour it into a flask and put it into your gym bag before you head to the gym. Then you’ll be able to chug down those vital nutrients straight after your workout ends (yes, even before you hit the showers). That way you’ll give your body the rebuilding tools it needs exactly when it needs them. Then watch your body grow.