What should I consume after exercise?
For post-workout recovery, you need 3 things - fluids, carbs, and protein:
Fluids to replace what you lost.
Carbs to resupply the fuel tank your muscles used during your workout (muscle glycogen).
Protein to help your muscles recover, rebuild, and to fuel the muscle growth.
Carbs are used for energy and they also give your muscles their storage of carbohydrates, called muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen is one of the body’s fuel tanks. It is the storage form of carbohydrates. It is important to replenish this fuel source when you are done exercising.
Protein is used by your body to repair and rebuild body tissue, including muscle fibers. Protein helps your muscles recover after a workout. Exercise causes your muscles to breakdown a bit, and then they get rebuilt. Over time, this builds stronger muscles. You don’t get stronger during your exercise, you get stronger recovering from exercise! And protein is important for this recovery. This is especially important for workouts that leave you sore!
Milk is a great drink for after workouts, because it has essential amino acids, and good forms of protein, such as casein.
The crucial time is within 45 minutes after your workout. If you consume carbs and protein within 45 minutes after a workout, you increase your endurance for your next workout and help the muscles recover.
Waiting longer than 45 minutes will greatly increase the amount of time it takes. It can take 24 hours if you do it right away, but if you wait, it can take several days! The most efficient way to restore muscle glycogen is with a simple-sugar type of carb, not a complex carb that takes longer to absorb. Additionally, protein and carbs that do not have a high fat content will help it get absorbed faster.
However, since the process of replacing the glycogen stores will last throughout the day - and can lead to low blood sugar throughout the day and night following exercise - taking complex carbs in a meal that follows the exercise should also be considered.
Not only will replenishing the muscle glycogen today help you with your workout tomorrow, this can also help your blood sugar remain more stable today and tomorrow.
If you have high or low blood sugar following exercise, and you want to replenish your muscle glycogen, it is important to correct your blood sugar immediately. Your body is not replacing muscle glycogen if you have high blood sugar (not enough insulin to push the carbs) or if you have low blood sugar (not enough carbs to get pushed)!
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