I shall get on to the real topic of this post in a second, but first, a quick recap on the Lululemon Warehouse Sale yesterday! Immediately after work, my friend Beth and I jumped in the car and set off for Hamilton. All day long, I’d been following Twitter in order to find out how long the lines were. Some people waited around 5 hours to get in!! With this in mind, I had a quick snack of puffed kamut and Kashi Go Lean cereals with strawberries, honeydew, and yogurt. Gotta fuel up to battle the crowds, right? After all, aside from running, shopping is my favourite endurance sport.
Luckily, things had died down a bit by the time we arrived and our total wait was no longer than about 30 mins. Before entering the convention center, we had to hand over our handbags and jackets to the baggage check. Once we got in, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. I’d envisioned lots of feisty pushing and shoving, but there really wasn’t any of that. Unfortunately for me though (and this will shock you) I didn’t buy anything. No, I wasn’t feeling ill. There just wasn’t anything in the sale that I felt was better than in-store. So, I left empty handed and with a wallet still full of cash – SCORE!
The trip was by no means a waste – Beth found plenty of gear and we stopped for dinner in Hess Village on our way home. I had a Greek salad topped with grilled chicken, minus the feta because feta and I just do not get along.
Ok, now onto the real topic of this post:
Last week I wrote a post about fueling for workouts, but today I want to talk about what to eat after, because this is just as important. When I was running on my university’s varsity cross country team, my coach reminded us countless times that we needed to refuel within 30 minutes after each training session. Why? Well, I shall explain.
Working out is a form of stress on the body. When you go for a run, or lift weights, or whatever workout you decide to do, small tears form in your muscle fibers. How do they fix themselves? With rest, and with proper nutrition. You probably already know that when you work out, your body burns energy in the form of calories. Like I mentioned in my post last week, glucose is easiest to break down into energy and is used first. After carbohydrates comes proteins, and finally, fats.
So what should a post-workout meal consist of?
I’m writing mainly with my running experience in mind, but this applies to other workouts as well. A proper post-workout meal should contain a mixture of carbohydrates and protein. The carbs are necessary to replenish the stores of glycogen that were used during your run. Protein helps to repair the muscle tears that are created as a result of physical stress experienced during a workout, and build new muscle. Generally, the recommended ratio of proteins to carbohydrates is 1:3 or 1:4 grams. The intensity of your workout will determine how many grams of each is ideal, but I won’t get into that because I’m not qualified to consult on the topic! (Refer to a sports nutritionist or dietitian for this information).
But what’s so magical about the 30 minute window?
Since your body has used its carbohydrate stores (glycogen and glucose) as fuel, it looks for something else. Your muscles are the new victim. To avoid this problem, it’s important to eat as soon as you can (ideally within 30 minutes, an hour maximum) after your workout is finished. By doing so, the body can recover properly and you’ll be able to train more effectively in your next workout.
Alright then, what are some good post-workout meals? The majority of the articles I’ve read and advice I’ve been given has recommended that approximately 300-400 calories should be consumed within 1 hour after exercising. Here are some ideas that provide good combos of carbohydrates and protein:
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Oatmeal topped with fruit (and about 1/2 scoop whey protein, if desired)
- PB (or other nut butter) on whole wheat toast with banana slices – bananas contain potassium, which is lost when you sweat.
- A whole wheat English muffin topped with a slice of cheese and an egg
- Fruit and cottage cheese
- Post-Workout Citrus Poppyseed Waffles
- Smoothies with whey protein powder – Liquid foods are digested and absorbed more quickly than solid foods. See the bottom of the Recipes page for some ideas, as well as this article.
- A cup of whole grain cereal with milk or yogurt (both contain about 8g of protein in one 8-oz serving) and sliced fruit
- Tuna mixed with cooked brown rice and mixed veggies – this is super easy to make and take with you if you’re squeezing in a workout between other activities. All you have to do is mix it up in a container! You can punch up the flavour by adding a drizzle of olive oil and some herbs.
- Protein bars or recovery bars: Luna and Simply Bars are my favourite, but Clif and Power Bar also has some good ones too, like this one, which provides protein and carbs in amounts very close to the 1:3 ratio.
A note about protein
One thing I learned when I was training and racing competitively was that not all proteins digest at the same rate. This has been a topic discussed in a few of my previous posts about protein powder (like this one). My usual protein sources include chicken, tuna, egg whites, salmon, and beans. The difference between these foods and whey protein is that they are whole foods. Whey digests very quickly, but whole foods digest more slowly. Post-workout, the body needs to digest carbs and protein in order to replenish energy stores as fast as possible. By the time the proteins from whole foods are in a ready-to-use form, it might be too late. Although these foods are essential and provide a ton of goodies that are great for our bodies, the fast digestion rate of whey protein makes a good post-workout choice.
And finally, fluids!
Don’t forget that it’s absolutely crucial to rehydrate. In addition to drinking water, sports recovery drinks contain sodium and can help to replenish electrolytes and fluids lost during workouts. One option that I used when training for my half marathons was Accelerade, which has a ratio of 1:4 protein to carbs. To find out why chocolate milk is a good post-workout drink, and for more liquid solutions, check out this article.
Questions for Today:
- If you’re a morning runner, check out these ideas for nutritious post-workout breakfasts.
- Do you run in the early morning, at lunch, after work, or later in the evening? This article has suggestions for refueling for every time of day.
- What are your favourite foods for refueling?
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday!