What’s really happening when you workout
Your muscles naturally stores up glycogen, a storage form of carbohydrates that happens to be their primary fuel for energy production. And during activity, muscles use up those glycogen stores to fuel your workout.
As a result, you might finish your workout feeling a little drained and with good reason: Your muscles are partially depleted of glycogen. Additionally, some of your muscles’ proteins break down during exercise.
Even when you’re done exercising, your body is still working to repair and rebuild its muscle proteins, as well as synthesize its glycogen stores. Skip that post-workout snack or meal once and it won’t be detrimental. But if you do this on a regular basis, your body won’t be able to replenish the glycogen it’s lacking.
Without sufficient carb levels, your energy levels will wane and you’ll go into your next workout feeling drained. On the other hand, if you consume the right nutrients at the right time (within 45 minutes of finishing a workout) this will not only help to replenish your muscles’ glycogen and protein stores, but activate new muscle development as well.
And if you’re going to invest time and energy into exercise, you don’t want a poor post-workout snack choice (or lack of a snack or meal at all) to compromise those gains.
What to eat post-workout
So now that you know how essential it is to get some calories in after aerobic activity or an exercise session, you might be wondering exactly what you should be re-fueling with.
While a slice of leftover pizza might seem convenient or it might be easier to grab a donut at the drive-thru, be intentional about choosing nutrient-dense carbohydrates and protein after your workout.
Unrefined, unprocessed plant foods that are easily digested will stimulate faster absorption of nutrients, so your body can get to work repairing your muscles sooner. After your daily exercise class or a weekend hike, reach for oatmeal, chocolate milk, a banana and peanut butter sandwich, greek yogurt with berries and granola, trail mix, or a smoothie made with pineapple, leafy green veggies, and other superfoods.
When to eat post-workout
Exercise causes microdamage to your muscles, which is actually beneficial to an extent. Take resistance training, for example. During this type of training, microdamage to muscles can promote proliferation on a cellular basis.
Without the fuel it needs, your body can’t properly repair the damaged muscles and stimulate proliferation – It can’t build those muscles back up so they are stronger than before!
Experts suggest that you refuel within 30 minutes after a workout to enable effective muscle rebuilding. Put off consuming carbs for an hour and you could feel sluggish when you hit the gym the next day. And a two-hour delay in eating something nutritious after a workout may result in up to a 50% lower rate of glycogen synthesis.
Studies suggest that failing to take in the right nutrition at the right time can make you more prone to overuse injuries, which can occur over time if you repeatedly neglect to replace essential carbohydrates during that 30-minute window.
If cross-fit or any exercise that involves muscle-building is your thing, you are at an even greater risk for damaging microtears. Translation: Eat something nutritious within 30-minutes so that your body can fix those muscle tears, build muscle, and be healthy and injury-proof for your next activity.
And don’t forget re-hydrating, which can be as simple as washing that post-workout snack down with 8 ounces of a sports drink to replace any electrolytes lost during exercise.
How to get that post-workout meal in
We’ve established that your body needs a post-workout meal, preferably one that combines carbs and protein, so your muscles can heal up in time for the next workout. And since you don’t want to get sick and miss a week of training or adventures, it doesn’t hurt to include ingredients like raw honey, vitamin C, and ginger as well.
But many of us barely have time to squeeze in our workout, let alone have a spare minute to make a post-workout meal AND eat it. That’s why smoothies are the ideal way to refuel after a workout.
You can throw high-carb fruits and veggies in the blender, pour your smoothie in a mason jar, and drink it on the go. And blending aids in breaking down food’s enzymes, minerals, and vitamins so that your body can absorb them faster.
Still finding it challenging to find time to make that smoothie? Try prepping a week’s worth of smoothie ingredients at once. This is a great time-saving option because in about 10 minutes, you can cut up all your smoothie ingredients, and divide them into mason jars based on the recipe you’re following. For example, if you’re using bananas, you can put one banana (sliced) in each jar.
You can keep a glass jar full of enough fruits and veggies for one smoothie in the fridge for up to 48 hours. When it comes to the other nutrient-packed jars that you’re saving for later in the week, store those in the freezer.
It helps to remove them about 20 minutes before you’re ready to make your smoothie, so they can thaw a little. Then empty the jar into your blender, add any nut milk, protein powder, or honey that the recipe calls for, and enjoy.
Our favorite post-workout smoothie
You don’t have to be lucky to bounce back from your workout faster. You just need to have some healthy, nutrient-dense fuel when you’re done! Check out our favorite post-workout smoothie, inspired by the flavors of the island.
It includes pineapple, which contains the enzyme bromelain to help in the digestion of protein and minimize inflammation. Pineapple is also an excellent source of vitamin C, a key antioxidant for the healing and growth of tissues.
At 28 grams of carbs per one cup, mango is high in the healthy carbs your body needs after exercise. And one medium banana contains 27 grams of carbs, as well as potassium, which is lost through sweat when we exercise. One medium banana has about 422 milligrams of necessary potassium.
With powerful anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has been found to help reduce joint inflammation and decrease daily muscle pain. And raw honey is touted for strengthening the immune system, and may also aid in reducing inflammation throughout the body. If you can’t find natural raw honey near you, you can order it here.
This recipe also calls for macadamia nut milk, which is a better vegan option than almond milk. Additionally, almond milk has also been associated with unsustainable farming practices that “bend the natural behavior of honeybees.”
Macadamia nut farming is generally based on more sustainable practices, and mac nut milk has plenty of health benefits as well. A good source of the electrolyte magnesium, mac nut milk also contains manganese, which studies suggest is involved in improving bone health.
Finally, the lucky green hue of this smoothie is from Spirulina powder. Spirulina is a nutritious blue-green algae that’s high in antioxidants, B vitamins, beta-carotene, iron, and manganese. It’s also 60% protein and 1 tablespoon contains all essential amino acids.
Lucky Post-Workout Smoothie
- 1 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup mango (sliced)
- 1 medium banana or 2 apple bananas
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 knob fresh ginger
- 1 cup unsweetened macadamia nut milk
- 1 Tbsp. Spirulina powder
- A handful of fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender for approximately 30 seconds, until the smoothie is the texture you desire.
Recover faster from your workouts, and enjoy the sweet life all year long!
The Bee Boys