It may surprise you that one of the most important things you can eat after a hard workout is carbohydrate. The popular belief is that you need to re-fuel with protein but it’s carbohydrate that re-fuels your body not protein.
Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook, explains how vital carbohydrates are to your post-workout recovery. It is important to eat carbohydrates to maintain high energy if you train hard on a daily basis. Habitually eating a low-carb diet will leave your muscles chronically fatigued.
We have become such raving fans of protein we have forgotten that carbohydrates are our body’s fuel. Protein is NOT fuel. We do not get energy from protein. Carbohydrates fuel our muscles AND our brain. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscle and replenish depleted glycogen stores.
Carbohydrate combined with protein (approximately 10-20g – which isn’t a lot of protein) creates the magic post-workout snack for the muscle re-fuelling and re-building response. Protein does play an important role for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue after our workout. Protein also reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle.
There is a post-exercise window of opportunity to optimally nourish and repair our muscle tissues. Nancy suggests eating within 45 minutes of a workout. And you don’t need a lot of food to initiate the rebuilding and repairing process. She suggests that a snack as little as 100 calories (80% carbs and 20% protein) is enough. An easy option would be a banana and almond butter. A smoothie is also a great choice. Focusing on whole foods is always a good idea for a post-workout snack. Eating fruits and vegetables (great carbohydrate choices) is smart since they have antioxidants that fight the free-radicals that occur during a hard workout.
As the fanfare for protein continues, let’s not forget about the power of carbohydrates and the importance they have in fuelling our brains and bodies with energy!
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