Interested in building muscle? Managing your weight? Improving endurance? Whatever your goal is, food is the fuel to achieving this. In reality, your daily workout is the easiest part and when the workout ends, your recovery is only just beginning.
We all know just how important it is to fuel our body BEFORE, DURING and AFTER exercise and if we had to choose one of those to be the most important, it would have to be AFTER.
Think about it like this, everything we consume post-exercise is effectively our pre-workout meal. And everything we do from the moment we throw down the weights for the last time is your warm up, setting yourself up perfectly (hopefully) for the next workout, whenever that may be.
Post-exercise, Do Eat: Protein
So, you’ve put in the work, now it’s time to secure those hard earned fitness gains. And that’s where PROTEIN comes in. Protein is the building block of the body and is crucial for the recovery and repair of all the structures that keep us moving.
Protein consumption and timings is a complex game but we would always recommend a high protein meal or snack as soon as possible after exercise or physical activity. This is because protein contributes to the maintenance and growth of muscle mass, so you are going to want to give your body the best shot at making those gains as soon as possible really.
Ideally, you will want to consume a substantial serving or meal containing high quality sources of protein AND carbohydrates within an hour of completing your workout but don’t worry if you can’t, just keep in mind a few of our tips when navigating that post-exercise nutrition window. We’ll also look a little closer at exact timings a little later too, so keep reading…
The current recommendation is at least 20g of high quality protein to facilitate that recovery process straight away. This can be from traditional food sources like meat, fish, egg or even plant sources.
Or you could use a protein shake like our active whey & collagen for a quick and easy way to get a high quality serving of whey protein AND collagen peptides immediately post exercise. Our active whey & collagen is also contains minimal calories so you can have maximum flexibility with your carbohydrate intake.
Post-exercise, Do Eat: Carbohydrates
Now this leads us very nicely on to the big C and the one thing that a lot of people forget… CARBOHYDRATES!!! Now, whether that’s from a lack of knowledge or an irrational fear that all carbs are bad is beside the point and we won’t judge either way.
Your muscles, as much as they need protein to recover and repair effectively; they also need carbohydrates. The key to this is replenishing the carbohydrate stores that the muscles use every minute of every day to function and you guessed it, to REPAIR!
Combining both protein and carbohydrates together gives your muscles everything they need (minus the R&R they also need!) to facilitate maximum recovery and repair so that your next 5km run will be even better the second, third and fourth time around.
But when is the best time to take protein?
Ah yes. The big question and we did say we would get round to answering it didn’t we…
This is a really common question so you are not alone in wanting the answers. And you’re in luck, because we always have the answers and more, right here on the U Perform blog every Friday!
When you consume your protein throughout the day can be dependent on what your fitness goals are. For example, you may be looking to optimise your protein intake and timing to help you manage your weight, aid muscle repair, build muscle or even just maintain the muscle mass you already have.
The topic of timings has become quite controversial recently however. Traditionally, the fitness and scientific communities have been fixed on an ‘anabolic window’ of 15 – 60 minutes immediately post exercise as the optimal time to consume your protein. With the initial 30 minutes being where most people’s opinions and practice converge
New research is starting to buck that trend, instead suggesting that this ‘anabolic window’ is actually a lot larger than we all thought!
And so, for the regular user, fitness enthusiasts and even top level athletes really, the exercise you are doing and quite simply just consuming sufficient protein to meet that level of exercise are actually way more important than the timing of it. Who would have thought!
If you are not in a rush, a food first approach is nothing to be sniffed at for everyone, at all levels. However, we recognise that this doesn’t always work for some people so if you are in a rush, never fear… protein powder supplements like our active whey & collagen are here to stay.
It’s worth bearing in mind too, that an individual’s daily protein and carbohydrate requirements is entirely unique and dependent on so many factors like weight and activity levels. And this is the same for carbohydrates too!
Post-exercise, Don’t Eat: Too Much
We’ve all been there… Rushing home from the gym or from a run only to find ourselves raiding every inch of the fridge AND cupboards. 1kg of pasta – no problem! There is no one size fits all approach to eating around and fuelling workouts, but eating like this is pretty safe no go zone for everyone.
Now, it’s very easy of us to overestimate the work we have done and the energy we have expended for any given workout and so in an effort to compensate we do the above and devour the entire contents of our kitchen. So, eating too much and also too little can be huge problems for fitness fanatics at all levels.
A really simple way to avoid this problem is to plan your workouts before one of the 3 main meals of the day – you were planning on eating a substantial meal anyway so you may as well get a workout in beforehand and then those larger portions aren’t going to waste.
Your body is a complex and efficient machine but it does have its limits. And when it comes to protein, we are looking at anywhere between 20g and 40g of protein per serving being about as much as can be effectively processed by the body in one go. This is what’s called bioavailability and in the case of facilitating effective protein synthesis, between 20g and 40g of protein per serving is highly bioavailable to the body.
Even better still, if the source of your protein is of high quality and highly bioavailable too, you are going above and beyond to fuel your body sufficiently post-exercise no matter what your level of activity is.
So we’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know about post-exercise fuelling and recovery but what about during exercise fuelling?
The human body is on average 60% water so you can understand why drinking water and staying hydrated is super important and not just for high level athletes. How you manage your hydration also comes into play in all 3 stages of fuelling: BEFORE, DURING and AFTER.
Just like with the foods you eat to fuel exercise, if you find yourself hungry or thirsty mid exercise, it’s probably a sign that you haven’t been fuelling correctly and often it’s a little too late to salvage what remains of your workout. Assuming you weren’t still absolutely smashing it of course.
We all perspire at very different rates and these differences only grow more polarised as the level of intensity increases or if other environmental conditions change too. But before you start downing litres and litres of water, keep in mind these tips…
Little and often
We hate to be a bore, but this really is true. An average adult should aim to drink 8-10 large glasses of water per day which is roughly 2 litres in total. And by doing so little and often you are allowing your body to maintain its hydration status efficiently over the course of the day.
Exercise = Sweat = Drink More
Yup that’s right. When we exercise we perspire or sweat as our body tries to dissipate excess heat and also clear chemical by-products too.
Our sweat consists primarily of water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are generally minerals that are play important roles all over the body but we do need to expel them and that’s where sweat comes in. The primary electrolytes found in sweat are sodium, chloride (essentially salt), potassium, urea, lactate, amino acids, bicarbonate and calcium.
Sweat rate is very personal and so the amount of extra water you may need to drink to account for this loss through sweat will naturally change from person to person. You’ll probably know already if you are heavy sweater – just the ask your kit bag and towel at the end of a workout.
But for some of you out there, you may not sweat a lot, but you might be a salty sweater. If you are left with dried out white crystals on your skin and clothing or find that the sweat runs down your face has a salty taste, then bingo you are a salty sweater.
There are tests out there that you can have done to find out all the data and metrics behind your sweat but regardless of having an official test or not, everyone who regularly exercises should aim to be replacing lost water, salt and electrolytes before, during and after exercise as this ultimately will help you keep performing at your best no matter the conditions.
There are a lot of hydration products out there, but beware as these often contain a lot more salt and sugar than you actually need but that is not to say they shouldn’t be considered as these may be beneficial for some.
But never fear, the trusty banana is here. Packed full of complex carbohydrates as well as being a great natural source of potassium and sodium, it’s a hydration hero really and doesn’t come with a unfriendly price tag either. That’s a win-win in our books.
That about wraps up this week’s edition of the U Perform blog. Leave us a comment below if you found it useful or if there are any topics you would like us to cover in future. Don’t forget to share this with someone who you know would benefit from reading this. The U Perform family loves sharing ideas and encouraging each other!