Stop Wasting Your Workouts: The Best Way to Recover

After an intense workout, our bodies experience significant depletion of key nutrients, water and energy. For many, this loss is seldom replenished and bodies are left running on little fuel until the next meal.

The hard work of a particularly grueling workout will hardly be worth it if you’re not refueling your body properly. Choosing the right food and beverage sources may help prevent injury and attain those long-awaited results.

To better understand what your body needs, you need to know what your body loses during a workout.

What You Lose

When you’re hitting the gym (or doing MaxT3 in your living room), your body loses energy it expends as you increase your activity level from a resting state. Also lost is “a severe depletion of carbohydrate stores and dehydration.” [1. Josephson, Scott. “Recovery Nutrition.” NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 2, no. 5 (2003): 16-17.] Continually as the body sweats, it loses water and electrolytes. Basically, you’re beating yourself up to reach your bikini goals.

The loss of these nutrients isn’t  immediately detrimental, but it  can be if not replenished.  Once you leave the gym your body goes into recovery mode to fix the sudden loss of energy and nutrients. Thanks to anutrition market that is saturated with conflicting information, sometimes it’s hard to determine what you need and what you can skip.

What You Don’t Need

  • Nothing.  Skipping a post workout “meal” is like skipping a night of sleep. It doesn’t benefit you in any way and only adds to your exhausted feeling. Your body is running on low fuel and needs something to help it bounce back from the beating you put it through.
  • A Spoonful of Sugar.  Many sports drinks or recovery drinks boast magical properties but are loaded with sugar.  “After a workout, sugar from soft drinks and fructose from fruit juice set your metabolism back to slow.” [2. “4 Post Workout Foods to Avoid / Nutrition / Healthy Eating.” FitDay – Free Weight Loss and Diet Journal. http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/4-post-workout-foods-to-avoid.html (accessed May 28, 2013).] You just exhausted yourself to boost your energy levels and metabolism. Don’t negate it by downing a sugar-loaded sports drink, or–gulp!–a soda.
  • Loads of Fat. A high-fat meal post-workout hinders recovery. It’s recommended that your diet have a good balance of fat but that does not include scarfing a cheeseburger directly after your workout (not to mention the refined carbs in the bun). Your workout aimed to reduce your total body fat and refilling it with bad, damaged fats will keep you on that plateau.

What You Do Need

Since you lose electrolytes, water, carbohydrates and fat, it would make sense to replace them. While it’s discouraged to do so by feasting like it’s Thanksgiving, you can replace these nutrients in a healthy and productive way.

  • Water. Most people sweat profusely when they workout because their bodies are working to regulate a fluctuating temperature. You’ll hardly need a reminder to drink up because of the thirst you experience, but you should aim to drink 16-24 ounces of h2o immediately after and continually for the remainder of your day.
  • Complex Carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates are essential in rebuilding muscle cells.”  A small bowl of spinach, kale or some mix of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) is actually an ideal post-workout snack. You could also try snacking on some organic almond butter (most nutritious when raw) and slices of a Granny Smith apple (low-glycemic index). The carbohydrates found in these snacks will aid your recovery and promote muscle growth.
  • Protein. “During intense workouts, muscle protein is damaged, which leaves an athlete with a net loss of muscle protein.” Many athletes tend to consume protein drinks or supplements immediately following a workout.  Liquid protein is more quickly absorbed into the body. They also tend to contain an ideal blend of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and various minerals necessary for rebuilding. However, soy protein and A1 casein should be avoided as they’ve been linked to various health risks. Whey is the way to go.
  • Electrolytes/Vitamins/Minerals. After a sweat session, you lose essential electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that are equally important to replace. Bananas offer a great source of potassium, which is one of the main electrolytes you lose. Other fruits like apples and even vegetables can also boost energy levels. If you’re on the Advanced Plan, be sure to reference the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans to see what fruits are cleared for limited use. Coconut water works wonders for rehydration and it has the ideal pH balance and perfect blend of electrolytes.

Finding a snack or drink that balances all of these is ideal and convenient. Unfortunately, many drinks or supplements claim a list of benefits but are loaded with artificial ingredients and sugars that yield little benefit.

The Ideal Solution

Combine the benefits of clean, all-natural protein with healthy fats and organic fruit, and you get a delicious after-exercise snack. Best of all, this solution is quick and easy: the Perfect Protein Smoothie.

Simply mix a large handful of berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries–you choose!), with full-fat coconut milk and a scoop of our Perfect Protein, and you’re refueling yourself with the perfect blend of carbs, fats and proteins. This simple smoothie does it all:

  • Provides amino acids for muscle building and repair.
  • Provides healthy fats to reduce inflammation and restore your natural fuel.
  • Replenishes lost carbohydrate stores.
  • Alkalizes to improve your body’s pH.
  • Rehydrates.
  • Replaces electrolyte stores.
  • Does not overload you with sugar because it is low-glycemic.

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References

3 – http://www.stamantnjrotc.org/WeightLifting/Articles/RecoveryNutrition.pdf (accessed May 28, 2013).