Written by Sergio Rojas, certified strength and conditioning and corrective exercise specialist and certified nutrition expert
Sponsored by USANA Health Sciences
When it comes to exercise and consuming the right nutrients, I often find people are far more concerned with what to put into their bodies before a workout in order to get maximum results and far less concerned about what to put into their bodies after the workout. The truth is that your post-workout nutrition can be as important as, if not more important than, your pre-workout nutrition and could affect your long-term results.
Proper post-exercise nutrition helps with replenishing vital nutrients for your body and repairing stressed muscles, which can help you to recover more completely and aid better performance during your next workout. It’s the ultimate pre-exercise nutrition for your next workout.
Now that you understand the importance of post-exercise nutrition, the next part is finding out what to eat or drink after your workout for the best results. This will vary from person to person based on a variety of personal factors as well as the types of exercise you do. High-intensity interval training, long-distance running, and weight lifting all have different demands and create different nutritional needs.
Here are my tips for post-exercise nutrition.
1. Regardless of length and intensity of the workout, start with water. Drink at least one or two glasses of water immediately after your workout. Water keeps you hydrated and helps to flush out exercise byproducts like lactic acid that muscles make during activity. Restoring hydration levels after your workout can result in healthier muscles that recover faster.
2. Smoothies and shakes are a good option for those who may have trouble eating solid food right after a big workout. The first 30 minutes to an hour after exercise is an important time for delivering nutrients like sugar, protein, vitamins, and minerals to your body that will help it to recover effectively. If you’re going to go with a smoothie or shake over solid food, I recommend making one that includes both carbohydrates and proteins. Contrary to what most people believe, carbohydrates are essential for muscle recovery as a source of energy for rebuilding damaged muscle fibers. As a result, you should actually aim to have more carbohydrates than protein in your post-workout smoothies or shakes at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Carbohydrates both provide energy for muscle repair and help replenish the body’s glycogen stores (energy).
A “zero-carb” protein drink post workout, or at any time, is pretty useless because it fails to provide your body with the calories needed to rebuild and put the protein to good use.
For cardiovascular exercise of 90 minutes or longer, you might need to increase your post-workout consumption, as well as your carb ratio. A 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio has shown good recovery results in research of runners and some of the latest research actually recommend 1 gram of carbohydrate and 0.25 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight. You will want to split the total post-exercise consumption in half in the form of a smoothie within 30 minutes of finishing your run, then the other half in the form of whole foods approximately 90 minutes later (within two hours of completing your run).
3. Lastly, some recovery drinks, protein powders, and meal replacement shakes you find in stores today may use poor-quality proteins and nutrients, which are not effectively absorbed by the body. Therefore we have to do our own research to find products that use higher standards for manufacturing and production, as well as use the highest-quality ingredients.
Remember that post-exercise nutrition is vital to your body’s recovery and long-term results.
About Sergio Rojas – With more than 17 years of experience as a fitness professional and nutritionist, Sergio Rojas has established himself as a go-to expert in functional movement and cellular nutrition, working with many professional and amateur athletes, professional sports teams, as well as celebrities and top executives. He is the owner of Infinite Motion Fitness, a fitness, nutrition, and wellness facility that also manages several corporate fitness sites, and ImFIT Wellness, which provides corporate wellness programs to a variety of businesses and community organizations.
Sergio is a certified fellow of applied functional science and an NG360 golf performance specialist from the Gray Institute, the leaders in movement science. He’s also a certified strength and conditioning specialist, corrective exercise specialist, certified nutrition specialist, and USANA fitness expert.