Its like music to our ears – finally, you can give yourself the guilt free license to eat after a workout. Believe it or not, implementing a regular post-workout meal will actually help you gain better results. This includes fat loss and muscle growth.
We can all be victims to a crash diet now and again. After all, popular belief says that over exercising in a calorie deficit will increase weight loss with quick results. However, this amateur attitude can lead to binge eating on the wrong foods at the wrong time. It can also lead to terrible ‘yoyo’ dieting habits. These habits can drastically undo the effects of your hard work in those painful 6am spin classes!
Together, let’s explore why eating a post-workout meal is optimal for nutrition, muscle-building and all-around health.
1 – Low Blood Sugar and Light-Headedness
Shortly after working out, the body needs to replenish the energy that it burned up in its glycogen stores, otherwise it will start to use up your body’s energy reserve stores. This will destabilise your blood sugar levels. The brain will try to conserve its energy by slowing down some of your other bodily functions. In other words, you start feeling dizzy and faint in public!
2 – Muscle Gain
All exercise will trigger the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate of this depends on the type of exercise you do and the level of exercise intensity. The body breaks down muscle protein during exercise so that it can start to repair and rebuild the muscle, improving muscle quality. After working out, you must eat enough protein to give your body the amino acids that it needs to repair, rebuild and construct new muscle tissue through protein synthesis.
3 – Muscle Breakdown
All that hard work for nothing. If you don’t eat after a workout, then your body will start to break down the protein in your muscles and use it as a source of energy. When your energy and fat reserves are not replaced, the body has no other option but to refuel itself. This has the complete opposite desired effect of working out, as the protein breakdown will override protein synthesis.
4 – Dehydration
Replacing fluids and electrolytes lost through excessive sweating is essential after exercising. Hydration is the most important building block you need after working out, since dehydration can lead to serious sporting injuries.
It’s important to replace the electrolytes lost in minerals such as calcium, salt and potassium during a super sweaty workout. Remember, we need electrolytes in our bodies for effective heart and muscle functioning. In severe cases, a lack of electrolytes can lead to heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats and arrhythmias. As a golden rule, you must hydrate properly before and after exercise. No cop-outs – drink lots of water.
5 – Metabolic Rate
Eating after a workout can actually increase your body’s metabolic rate! Seem too good to be true? Well, your metabolism is boosted during exercise as the body uses hormones and enzymes to convert food into energy. This helps fuel our bodies during a workout.
However, not everyone knows that you can actually trick your metabolism to keep on functioning long after you’ve finished exercising! The trick is to keep your metabolism high after a workout by eating 20 to 30 grams of protein. This will keep your body burning off calories all day long.
6 – Faster Recovery
Not eating after a workout will generally make it harder for you to progress and advance with your training regimen. Muscle soreness and slower recovery time can be a consequence of not giving your body the right nutrients it needs after a workout.
Carbohydrates will help to replace your lost glycogen levels and protein will help to stimulate the protein synthesis process, meaning that your body can recover quicker and enhance overall performance during your next workout.
7 – ‘The Window of Opportunity’ (Post-Workout Meal)
During this ‘window’, your muscles are perfectly primed to accept all the nutrients that will help to repair, grow and improve muscle strength. This window is open only for a short period of time, and typically lasts up to a maximum of two hours.
This is where you need to ensure proper protein and carbohydrates intake. Remember, eating a post-workout meal will help protein synthesis and replace your muscle glycogen stores. Doing this straight after a workout can feel a bit daunting, but don’t worry. If you find it difficult, try drinking nutrition supplements! They are packed with nutrients and great on the go.
For more information on how proper diet and nutrition can help you, or to book an appointment, contact us on (03) 9470 1010. And check out our Northern Spinal & Sports Injury Clinics in Reservoir and Melbourne CBD.