‘How to eat after working out’ is a topic that was requested by a HEAL reader recently. Now, I have to preface that the fundamentals of Holistic Nutrition are that no one person is the same, and that some foods respond better or worse in one person versus the next, but there are still guiding principles when it comes to nutrition and exercise that are important.
Ideally, you want to eat as soon as you’ve finished working out, but typically you don’t have an appetite right away. There are a couple of reasons to eat soon after exercise. Firstly, exercise causes blood sugar levels to drop, and eating will help raise the blood sugar so its stable again. Secondly, muscle cells are more responsive to insulin right after exercise (i.e. the cells can absorb the fuel from your food more efficiently right after exercise).
Something else to note is that studies* suggest that athletes who eat smaller, more frequent meals have better performance than those who eat less frequent, larger meals.
The higher the intensity and the longer the duration, the more your body will rely on carbohydrates as a source of energy. The body gets most of its carbohydrate energy from glycogen (glucose in storage form) in the muscles. Therefore, for optimum muscle recovery, you need to replace the muscle glycogen post workout with carbohydrates. Athletes do require more protein than the average sedentary person; however most athletes consume more protein than actually required, so this is less important. The ideal ratio of carb to protein post workout is 4:1.
Healthy carbohydrate ideas include sweet potatoes, fruit, or quinoa.
I’ve already spoken about how much I dislike Gatorade here and here, but what’s also worth noting is that unless you’re doing over an hour of training, you likely don’t need further electrolyte replenishment over and above some good, nourishing food. And, if you are doing endurance exercise, I recommend using a TBSP of maple syrup in water or coconut water.
Depending on how intense the exercise was that you did, a good rule of thumb is to drink 1 cup of water every 15 minutes for up to 2 hours after. Alternatively, you can weigh yourself pre and post workout. For every pound lost, 500ml (2 cups) of water is required.
In my eyes, a smoothie is the PERFECT post workout snack or meal. It is a great way to replenish electrolytes naturally, and it’s super fast!Here are the two smoothie recipes I have that include banana, a great source of potassium and electrolytes. I have that include banana, a great source of potassium and electrolytes: