Kerry Pye’s health and fitness column: What and when you eat after exercise is vital

After gym work your body needs protein and carbohydrate.
After gym work your body needs protein and carbohydrate.

What you eat and drink after your workout – and when – can have a big impact on your next performance.

What do you eat first after a workout? Do you consider post workout to be important for repair and recovery or do you use your workout as an excuse for treats and believe ‘anything goes’?

Eating and drinking the right things after exercise does more than just top up your draining fuel supply, it helps your body get ready for your next round of activity too.

Your body needs carbohydrate and protein after you exercise.

After a hard workout, your body has burned through a lot of carbohydrate, your primary fuel that keeps your muscles working and it is important to refuel as soon as you can.

Healthy carbohydrates – fruits, whole grains and the natural carbs in dairy products – are a good place to start with post-workout snacking.

Protein is important in recovery too, since it helps to stimulate muscle repair and growth after you’ve been working out. The ideal post-exercise meal or snack should contain a combination of healthy carbs and protein.

Meal timing is important after exercise too.

To optimize muscle recovery pay attention to your ‘metabolic window’, a time period of about 30-45 minutes after exercise during which you should try to eat your carbs and protein.

“During this critical time after you exercise, your muscle cells are more sensitive to the effects of insulin – a hormone that helps transport amino acids (from protein) into your cells. Insulin also works to drive carbohydrate into the cells, where it is stored in the form of glycogen. This stockpile of carbohydrate can then be used to provide energy to working muscles during the next bout of activity,” Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSS.

Remember you’re not only helping your body recover from your workout, you’re also helping your body prepare for the next one. In simple terms ensure you are prepared to eat clean ‘fast food’ after exercise.

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