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Fit to EAT (Part 2) - Post-Workout Eating

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Post-Workout Eating

Eating after your workout is crucial in order to repair the muscles you have worked, explains Naidoo. Raleigh adds: "Supplying immediate sources of protein and carbohydrates to your body begins the repairing, rebuilding and refueling phases your body needs to avoid the breaking down of precious muscle mass."

Description: Post-Workout Eating

Chris Mason, co-owner of AtLarge Nutrition, is involved with bodybuilding and powerlifting. He says: "Recovery is a term that's bandied about a great deal, yet is often misused. Technically, recovery is not what any hard-training individual wants as a result of their efforts; what you want is super-compensation."

Recovery from a session means that you get back to the same physical state that you were in prior to training, while super-compensation is when your body adapts to the stimulus of training by getting bigger, faster, stronger or more aerobically fit, or a combination thereof He explains that post-workout (PWO) nutrition is only one aspect of the larger nutrition component, but its effects on recovery and super-compensation are very important.

'After an intense session, your body is in a unique physiological state; the PWO nutrition window is real and should be taken advantage of by any athlete looking to optimize their performance," he says. While training stimulates increased protein synthesis, it simultaneously stimulates an increased breakdown of protein, so adequate nutrients - most importantly protein and carbohydrates - must be available during this period.

When should you eat after traning?

Hamlett says that a recommendation in most circles is to use the window hour after training to ensure thatyou get your protein in. Raleigh agrees that in order to give your body optimum recovery, you need your post-training snack or meal, containing carbohydrates and protein, ideally within 30 minutes of exercising.

Bester suggests that you should wait no longer than two hours post-exercise, and eat a balanced meal (you must not neglect to add good fat to your meal). You have a window period of about 30 to 60 minutes in which your body is catabolic and requires fuel to replace the energy exerted during the training session. "This food does not turn into fat, provided that you are eating the correct food, but rather refuels the energy stores to help the recovery process and enhance performance for the next round of exercise," says Reichman-Israelsohn.

However, Tim Noakes, professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, feels that people should eat according to their hunger, not necessarily according to some fixed schedule. He explains that his research shows that carbohydrate-based diets cause you to overeat and to be hungry most of the time. If you are eating a high-carbohydrate diet, you tend to eat at regular intervals, as if you didn't, you would be perpetually hungry However, once you remove or reduce the amount of carbohydrate in your diet, you start eating in response to proper feeding cues. He believes that by eating a high-fat, high-protein diet, you don't eat as much or as frequently, and only when you feel hungry.

“Steer clear of fibre directly after your workout, as these will slow down digestion rather than help refuel the body”

What should you eat?

Hamlett says: 'After training, it is optimal to eat a protein of the highest quality and absorption, and it should simulate the time it takes for a carb to be absorbed." Experts agree that a good combination of carbs and protein is essential.

Naidoo advises going for a quick-absorbing carb and protein, because after training you need to replenish lost nutrients quickly. Reichman-Israelsohn says that it's the only time you can get away with a high-GI carb, as these carbs replenish glycogen levels and also spike insulin levels to act as a carrier for the proteins and amino acids.

According to Raleigh, dates, brown pasta, bananas and potatoes are all good choices. "Steer clear of fibre directly after your workout, as this will slow down digestion rather than help refuel the body." Bester recommends lean protein such as beef and chicken, and potatoes, rice, vegetables or fruit as your carbs.

Mason believes that the best thing to take is a shake, consisting of a combination of protein and carbohydrates. "The primary reason for this is the absorption rate. Liquid meals are normally digested and absorbed at a slightly quicker pace than a comparable solid-food meal," he says. The faster you can make amino acids (protein) and glucose (carbohydrates) available to the muscle cells, the greater the potential PWO recovery response. Mason agrees with including a simple carbohydrate into the shake, to allow for a quick spike of blood-glucose levels, which provides the hungry muscle cells with the fuel they need to replenish diminished glycogen stores. At the same blood-glucose spike triggers a strong insulin response by the body, which harnesses the optimization of the PWO response.

Raleigh says that whey protein power is a particularly good choice, as it is one of the few proteins that have a 100% absorption rate. However, this recommendation will change if you are diabetic or have high blood pressure.

Raleigh says that combining carbohydrates with protein is an ideal way for diabetics or those with high blood pressure to manage their sugar levels.

Registered dietician, Celynn Erasmus, adds that if you are diabetic, and exercise intensely, you can have a high-GI option, as long as it is portion controlled. However, she suggests the best options for diabetics are medium GI foods, like tropical fruit. Erasmus warns that eating low-GI foods will not help replenish your muscles after an intense workout.

“Also remember that while eggs are an excellent source of protein, they are high in cholesterol, and those who suffer from cholesterol problems should consult with their doctor for daily allocation," says Raleigh.

On the other hand, Noakes believes that you should not be eating carbohydrates at all; instead, you should follow a high-fat, high-protein diet. However, he also advocates eating what your body tells you to eat. "If you are an elite athlete, there might be some advantage to taking more protein in the moment that you stop exercising. But for the vast majority of exercisers, it really doesn't make a lot of difference what you eat after you have exercised," he adds.

Ultimately, you will need to assess the type of exercise you are doing, what your nutritional needs are, and what you feel most comfortable with when it comes to which advice you choose to follow according to your own unique body type.

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