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The Importance of Exercise Recovery: Step 5 Post-Workout Nutrition

nutrition recovery Aug 09, 2020

Over the past several weeks I have been exploring methods of recovery. It’s not simply about resting the body after an exercise session, but about intelligently helping the body heal and move to reach healthy balance within the body.

In the first post I explain there is a constant play of stability and mobility. Certain areas in our body function best when strong and stable and other parts of the body function best when flexible and mobile.

In the second post I explore how strength training helps build the body to function optimally. I highly recommend strength training with a plan designed by a certified personal trainer, as it’s important to have a solid program and system built to work with your unique set of strengths and weaknesses. More info about training here.

In the third post I delve into stretching and self-massage.

In the forth post, I explored how stress can limit your ability to lose weight and become healthy. 

In this post I explain how what we eat (whole foods) and what we don't eat (processed foods) are equally important.

What we eat is so critical for our exercise recovery. I could write a book on it...well many people have. I am going to stick to the basics for this post. 

Let's focus on what we should eat when we are active. 

Precision Nutrition, the amazing company I am a certified nutrition coach with has a simple and easy way to monitor not only portion sizes and also what types of macronutrients to focus on and when to eat them.

For every meal:

  • 1-2 palms of protein is 3oz each
  • 2 fist of veggies is at least 1 cup each
  • 1 cupped hand of "smart" carbs is 1/2 cup
  • 1 thumb is 1-2 tbsp of fat

Good protein sources include

  • chicken
  • fish
  • high protein yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • turkey
  • lean beef

Good vegetable sources include

  • green leafy veggies, like spinach and kale
  • carrots
  • zucchini 
  • cucumbers
  • beets
  • radishes
  • colourful peppers
  • tomatoes

Good carbohydrate sources include

  • fruit, like berries, apples, melon
  • squashes, like butternut and acorn
  • sweet potatoes

Good fat sources include

  • raw nuts
  • olive, avocado, and coconut oils
  • avocados

Protein is so important for our active bodies, as well as for those wanting to lose weight. Protein is literally the building blocks (amino acids) for our muscles. So the more we work out and challenge our muscles, the more protein is needed. Protein takes longer to digest so it helps feeling more full for longer, keeping cravings at bay.

Carbohydrates should be mainly fruit and veggies. To stay healthy, try to limit processed carbs, like muffins, cookies, potato chips, and french fries. Only have processed foods once a week for a special treat. 

Fat should come from natural sources, like nuts and avocados. Fish oil is also important. 


Post-Workout Nutrition

What we eat after an intense workout is important. Intense workouts include workouts lasting longer than 45min and have increased your heart-rate and challenged your muscles: like a run, weight training, HIIT class, or cycle class. Walking the dog, gardening, or a leisurely bike ride are great, but those activities don't need a specific post-workout meal.

Bodies deal with nutrients differently at different times, depending on activity, so consuming certain nutrients after your workouts improves body composition, performance, and muscle recovery.

Post-workout nutrition helps with:

  • replenishing energy stores to improve performance for next workout
  • increasing muscle size and/or muscle quality to improve appearance 
  • repairing any damage caused by the workout by increasing protein synthesis which helps keep bodies injury free

There is a small window to maximize nutrient uptake so try to eat right after your workout to no later than 2 hours after. Try to ingest 20-30g of protein and a small amount of quick digesting carbs, like a banana or apple. The perfect snack could be either a protein shake with berries, protein bar (my fave are Vega protein bars), high protein yogurt with fruit, or your lunch and dinner using the PN portion guide above. 

I tried to keep this post short and simple as to not overwhelm with too much information. However, if you are interested to learn more, Precision Nutrition has a very powerful program called ProCoach to help create effective strategies to bring lasting habit change. Head here for more info