The importance of post workout nutrition cannot be undermined. In order to recover properly from your workouts your body needs essential nutrients to rebuild and re-energize. You’ve worked hard in the gym, or just completed your run, or just finished an intense game and don’t want your sweat and effort to go unrewarded right? Well, the following information is essential in assuring you get the most from your training as well as helping your body recover as best it can.

It is important to realize that making poor food choices following exercise can not only reduce the benefits of exercise but it can also weaken your immune system, increase the likelihood of injury, cause hypoglycemia (drop in blood sugar) and reduce your energy and performance during subsequent exercise sessions.

Carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats all have an important role in the post exercise nutrition. While working out or exercising, your body mainly uses muscle glycogen and blood glucose as its main fuel sources. These glycogen and blood sugar levels can be severely depleted upon completion of an intense workout and must subsequently be replenished to ensure proper recovery.

Exercise, and specifically weight lifting, causes microtears in the muscle fibers (protein degradation). This is what causes muscle soreness but also what stimulates their recovery to a stronger state than before. Since muscles are made up of protein, post-workout protein consumption is important to foster quick and full regeneration.

I also highly recommend adding essential fatty acids for the role they play in reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system, and building healthy cell membranes.

Another component I recommend adding to a post-exercise smoothie is Maca. Maca is an ancient Peruvian root vegetable that has tremendous adrenal supporting benefits. Considering that intense exercise places significant stress on the adrenal glands, maca can play a noteworthy role in helping your body come back to balance and reduce its stress load. Maca powder is the easiest form to use.

After your exercise session, fuel replenishment (glycogen stores), muscle regeneration, and rehydration (discussed later) are your three main goals. As such, food choices that stimulate the release of insulin (ie. sugars) will cause the most effective uptake of carbohydrates into the muscles. This increase in insulin levels due to consuming carbohydrates after exercise also increases muscle repair because insulin stimulates muscle protein synthesis. High quality protein and essential fatty acids will foster proper recovery of muscle tissue and other cellular damage, respectively.

The quicker you can get the proper nutrients into your body after your workout, the more effective your recovery will be. And just to reiterate, by ensuring that nutrients come from plant-based whole foods, you will greatly assist your recovery. One study out of Denmark showed that a vegetarian group of athletes recovered in 1/5 of the time it took the “meat-eating” athletes. Something to consider the next time you reach for that steak!

The ideal is to consume a quickly absorbable (high glycemic index) form of carbohydrates within 15 minutes of your workout’s end. This can take the form of a sport drink, fruit juice, fruit, or the sport gels and puddings. After this initial glucose-rich drink/snack, you can have a more substantial smoothie that balances carbohydrate-rich foods with high quality alkalizing proteins (hemp or whey) and essential fatty acids.

Whey protein has been found to stimulate the release of insulin. Therefore, it would be an effective protein to consume after an exercise bout as the extra boost of insulin will help drive nutrients into the muscle cells. Whey protein is also a very high-quality protein that would help muscles recover more quickly. You can throw in some Maca if you like as well.

After your smoothie, it is preferable to have a more balanced and substantial meal no later than 2 hours post workout. As with your smoothie, this meal should contain good sources of carbohydrates, proteins, and essential fatty acids. Remember that you want to choose whole living plant-based foods for they have tremendous life force, contain huge amounts of enzymes, and are mostly alkaline forming in the body.

Author's Bio: 

Yuri Elkaim is a Certified Kinesiologist, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, former Professional Soccer Player, the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the University of Toronto men's soccer program, and regarded by many as Canada's leading Fitness expert.

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