So you’ve just finished your workout. You were focused. You trained hard. Intensity was high. You’re still trying to catch your breath. Beads of sweat still streaming down your face. You just took a long drink from your water bottle. Now you make your way either towards the locker room or to your car and wonder what is the best thing to eat after your workout. Better yet, you figure, you just crushed your muscles and common sense dictates that you definitely need some protein to help the recovery process and help your muscles grow or stay lean. Well in today’s world, common sense has definitely been hijacked by pseudo-science, voodoo-guru’s and even if there’s such a thing as the ‘best’ of anything. As Ben Swan highly recommended news segment Reality Check demonstrates, the truth hurts.
Recently an article was written titled, ‘The 14 Best Things to Eat After your Workout’?and concludes that your body uses a lot of energy during a work out and replenishing your body 1-2 hours after is needed for muscle recovery. So the article lists 14 foods that help in this process. So as I was reading through the article and looking at the pretty pictures, a couple of things dawned upon me. One, why 14? Is 14 a special number? Two, why eat these foods after a workout? Shouldn’t you eat these foods as part of a balanced diet anyway? And finally, what is so special about these foods that promote muscle recovery? Is a post workout meal even necessary?
THE MYSTIC 14
Why 14? Why not 9 or 17? Got me. I guess it sounds good but according to this article, there is a special place for the number 14. So let’s chalk this one up as a no reason just random.
Okay, what’s next….
THESE FOODS WILL MAKE YOU STRONG LIKE BULL
Why eat these particular foods after a workout? The author of the original does give his reason why a certain food should be eaten after a workout but why only then. By the looks of things, these foods should be part of a healthy diet regardless of meal timing. Right?
Our bodies are composed of complex checks and balances, systems, and processes. As we train, the muscles and the body uses its primary source of energy: carbohydrates. When we consume carbs, the body breaks it down to produce glycogen that is stores within the muscles and liver. As training gets intense, longer this glycogen gets low and can deplete completely. So your body will order you to eat, thus exercise-induced hunger (normal), to start the replenishing process. This process can last from 24 hours to one week. I’m talking about full storage like filling up your gas tank all the way. If you do not have the necessary glycogen from carbs, your body will manufacture glycogen from protein. Not what you want! It’s too metabolically expensive. One of the roles of protein is to build and maintain muscle. So you workout, your glycogen stores are diminished, and your muscles have undergone a vigorous beat-down. Now you need some post-workout meal to start the recovery process BUT you also need to consume this meal within a window of 1-2 hours! Can you say S-T-R-E-S-S?!! What is one to do if this window slams shut? Will I lose my training benefits? Will I shrivel up?
Relax! All this is part of the pseudoscience that parades itself as fact. Your body will dictate what it needs, when it needs it and it doesn’t matter if its one hour after training or 4 hours after. The bottom line is eating meals equally timed throughout the day ensures proper nutrition and gives your body the tools it needs to do its thing. It won’t speed things up because you fed it a special protein-packed meal right after training.
So the formula for success is eating calorically balanced meals (4-5) a day, separated by 2-4 hours in between regardless of when you workout or go to bed. Don’t stress. The body thrives on regularity so eating at the same time every day ensures a healthy and fit body.