Post-workout nutrition is absolutely crucial to your progress. If you are pushing yourself in the gym, it’s important to follow up on that with some solid nutrition afterwards. Carbohydrates are critical to recovery in this period.
Post-workout, your body will be high in the stress hormone cortisol which is catabolic (breaks down muscle). Your muscles will not become anabolic (grow) again until your energy stores are fully replenished, enough so to begin repair.
It makes more sense to be carb heavy around your workouts as training will make your body more sensitive to insulin, meaning it can tolerate and use carbohydrates better during this period of time.
Carbohydrates For Post-Workout Recovery
Carbohydrate ingestion after a tough session will get you on the road to recovery, specifically simple carbohydrates which digest quickly in the body. When you train hard, your body takes glycogen to use as fuel. The body’s glycogen stores need to be replenished, and this is what happens when you eat carbs post-workout.
✓ Complex carbs which take longer for the body to digest are still an important part of your nutrition plan, but they will not serve you as well post-workout as simple carbohydrates will.
✓ Try to keep your post-workout meal low in fat. The reasoning behind this is that fat sources slow the digestion of food in the stomach, and in this case, we want the food to be digested as quickly as possible so that the body begins recovery as fast as possible.
Post-Workout Carb Sources
Pair your simple carbohydrates with a protein source and you will get the ball rolling to promote post-workout recovery.
Here are some great simple post-workout carbohydrate ideas.
#1 White rice
A well known bodybuilding staple, plain white, long-grain rice is a fantastic option to have post-workout. White rice has a glycaemic index of 64, one of the highest amongst the grains, which will allow for a speedy increase in your blood sugars; a condition ideal for replenishing glycogen (energy stores) quickly.
✓ An extremely versatile food, rice can be enjoyed with lean proteins such as chicken and fish; or paired with soy, vegetables, or tofu for a carb-protein combo.
Potatoes are another great option to eat after a tough session. Sweet potatoes specifically are a complex carb, allowing for a reduced rate of energy release into the body, whilst helping to restore glycogen. White potatoes are also good options to eat post-workout due to being classed as a simple carbohydrate – providing a hit of energy to restore energy in the muscles.
✓ Try mashing them or even make them into wedges and bake in the oven. Sprinkle some seasoning on and pair them with some healthy homemade chicken goujons and you will have a delicious post-workout meal that will fill you for hours but pack a powerful protein and carbohydrate punch.
Bananas are natural, unprocessed post-work out options. Like white rice, they are on the higher end of the GI scale at 65, therefore providing your body with a quick hit of energy for replenishment.
✓ Try some homemade protein banana bread for a tasty snack post-workout snack.
#4 Rice cakes
Rice cakes are tasty and portable while making a great post-workout snack. Like rice, they contain fast-acting carbs that are able to digest quickly to replenish glycogen and speed up recovery. Rice cakes are usually
✓ They taste great topped with fruit – try a tbsp peanut butter and a sliced banana on top.
#5 Protein pancakes
Protein pancakes are a delicious post-workout meal that contain fast-digesting carbs but are also high in protein, which is perfect for replenishing the muscles. Try making your own or use a protein pancake mix to save the hassle.
✓ Try topping them with dried fruit and change the flavour by switching up protein powder flavours if you’re making your own!
What if I can’t manage a post-workout meal?
Many people understandably struggle to eat a meal right after a tough session at the gym. This is perfectly normal, but at the same time, you need to get nutrients to the muscles post-workout to get the maximum benefits from your session.
✓ If you can’t eat, then drink it instead! This is where the convenience of protein shakes becomes handy as you can make a shake that is high in carbs and protein by simply adding in a banana and honey to the mix.
✓ The bonus to this is that liquid meals have a fast absorption rate and so hit the muscles quickly starting the repair process.
Take Home Message
You can follow the best training routine in the world, but if you don’t take the time to ensure you have a sound nutrition plan, you will not reach anywhere near the potential you could achieve.
Carbohydrates are crucial to the recovery process post-workout, and at this time, simple carbohydrates which digest rapidly in the body are your friend. Pair them with a fast digesting protein and you will kick start the recovery process so that you are primed for your next session and also see the best results from your hard work!