Post workout snacks and why you should be enjoying one…

27 Feb

Today’s post comes at you from one of my real life bf’s, Jaimelee.  She blogs over at her little piece of the blogosphere, Diary of a Crossfit Mom.  Jaime is my constant fit companion, and we talk incessantly about all things fitness and nutrition.  She is a self proclaimed Crossfit/Nutrition geek, and I proclaim her youtube and podcast queen of the universe.  She loves to learn about nutrition and fitness, and how it all effects our bodies… more specifically hormone regulation.  She is a junkie for it, and I get the benefit of the Cliffs Notes version of her hours of research when we chat.

One of our recent conversations was about post-work noshing.  I was an apple and almond butter kind of chick when it came to my post-workout snack.  Read on to find out why I was not helping myself or my muscles with my snack of choice.  Also, be sure to visit her blog and show her some follow love!

Post Workout Nutrition is one of today’s biggest buzzwords in the world of health and fitness. You see people at your gym carrying around shaker bottles full of some magic liquid, catch people downing bars on their way out of the gym and you can get pages of results searching them on Pinterest. When I worked at GNC it was amazing how many recover supplements and bars we sold which made me think obviously there is something to this post workout nutrition thing. Post workout nosh is essential for maximum recovery.

First off I want to explain why a post workout snack is so important. So let’s start with the science-y stuff. When you workout, especially strength work, you pull from your glycogen stores in your muscle, post workout you have what is called a “Metabolic Window of Opportunity” for maximum restoration of these depleted stores. This window can be defined as the period up to 45 min after exercise at which time nutrition can shift the body from a catabolic state to an anabolic one essentially stimulating protein and glycogen synthesis.

In a nutshell during this time by eating protein & carbohydrates you increase the building of muscle. Now there is some debate on the time frame of this window which range from fueling during training up to the 45 minutes after, but I will get more into that later. Essentially the point is post workout you want to consume a protein and a carbohydrate. Remember however that all carbohydrates are not created equal. Your muscles use glycogen and glycogen is what you want to feed them when it comes to your carbohydrate.

As in the above definition the base of a good post workout snack is protein and carbohydrate, but most people aren’t selective about their carbohydrates. Some workout snack examples I have used and seen online are fruit and nut butters, chocolate milk, protein shakes, cheese stick and fruit, or chicken and sweet potato. I am surprised at how many times I see fruit suggested as post workout nosh as well as some sort of fat source and here is why.

When your Glycogen window is open you want to fill it with as much as possible in as little time as possible. You can optimize this restocking by eating a good solid protein, and glucose based carbohydrate, fruit is both glucose and fructose and while it won’t harm you post work out it won’t maximize that window as a higher glucose snack would. Also keep in mind that your body has to work a little harder to digest fructose and therefore may take glucose longer to get back into those muscles. So it is a good idea to look for an alternative to fruit, I will make the exception for bananas since they tend to be on the more starchy side. You also want a good protein so that you will have the fuel available to aid in recovery. What you want to avoid post workout is fats, fats are best for a pre-workout snack as they will delay absorption of glycogen into the bloodstream and therefore prolonging them as fuel. Post workout you want your nutrients to rocket back into your system and fat would just delay this. Remember that window which is a time frame, you want fast and easily absorb-able  you don’t want to add a fat to delay, thus pushing absorption past that window. So save your fat for later.

So now I am sure you are asking what you should eat. I would say, in my opinion, a protein shake is optimal because it is by far the easiest and most convenient post workout fuel, this is what I use most of the time. I blend a high quality protein powder with coconut water, but I have heard of people who blend protein and milk, protein and Gatorade  and protein with straight glucose and water.

face 077

If you take this route I highly recommend that you research your powders and go with high quality whey isolate. There are other proteins out there so experiment and find what works best for your body, as with anything the smaller the ingredient list the better. I use Progenex which has about 5 ingredients in it, it is pricey but worth the money.

Other great options are baked chicken (dry baked with no oil) with sweet potato, or egg whites with sweet potato, smoothies made with Greek yogurt and bananas, while not optimal, are acceptable. Chocolate milk is also a big post workout drink used by various athletes, if you try this just make sure to avoid any made with high fructose corn syrup, key word here being fructose. Whatever you choose you want to keep it anywhere from a 2:1 to a 4:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio, I use a 2:1 ratio but that is me you will have to experiment to find your optimal ratio.

So now to revisit the time issue, the name itself indicates post workout but there are some camps out here who highly recommend drinking a recovery drink during your workout thus maximizing absorption. The theory behind this is that by the time you have digested the shake your at your window. Obviously this would only work with drinks or shakes because I am not sure how people would feel about you chomping on some chicken between sets or rounds.

However, for every guy that says “during  a workout is optimal” you have a guy rallying for every time in between, and leading up to 45 min. I will tell you that I personally have tried drinking a shake during a workout and have noticed faster recovery and less feeling tired post. This isn’t always possible depending on my workout, I am not going to try to sip a drink while running a 5k {that always ends bad} so this isn’t always what I do.   I do however try to hit that post fuel as close to after my workout as possible.  Most times I drink my shake while cooling down or stretching but I always try hard to hit within that window.  I suggest that you play around with what is convenient and what you notice your body responding to.  If you have your snack at 45 min and notice you are feeling fatigued after your workout and have prolonged muscle soreness try to get your snack in earlier.

So just remember post workout you want to avoid fat, consume protein and carbohydrate, and get that refuel in as soon after your workout as possible. Here’s to great recoveries!!

Us in our non-Fit Chick In Training days…

2 Responses to “Post workout snacks and why you should be enjoying one…”

  1. loseitbig February 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Thanks for this post…i am going to head over to diary of crossfit mom…i need yo look into some hormonal rgulation for my wife…maybe she has some tips

    • supermomsteurer February 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

      I am working on a post about Estrogen right now and should have it up in the next day or two!! Thanks for coming by!

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