What’s the Best Way To Refuel After Exercise?
by Angie Miller
After a grueling boot camp, muscle conditioning, or cardio workout our muscles are depleted and in need of nutrition. The question is, how soon after we sweat should we be refueling? Post exercise hydration and nutrition needs are important considerations, and they play a key role in our ability to maximize the benefits we gain from our workout. Check out the questions and answers below for some important tips.
Is water the best choice or should we be reaching for sports drinks?
Proper fluid balance is essential for athletes as well as recreational exercisers. Dehydration can negatively impact performance, and when you don’t get enough fluids it can interfere with your body’s ability to maintain normal temperature. During most activities water is adequate in order to prevent dehydration. However, during endurance events or activities greater than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be necessary to enhance performance. The drink should contain carbohydrates to properly fuel the nervous and muscular systems.
How soon after exercise should we be eating a post-workout meal?
There is a window of opportunity, or “metabolic window,” that lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes immediately following exercise, especially intense training. During this time, the body is most receptive to nutrient uptake and you have the best chance of reducing muscle damage. This window also allows you to maximize the muscle and strength gains from your workout.
Should the post-exercise meal be solid foods or a liquid meal replacement?
The moment you cease exercise the window of opportunity opens and from that time on the benefits begin to decrease. Because solid food can take approximately 2 to 3 hours to digest, it is not generally a recommended option as the window is closed by the time it’s digested. Although nutrition bars can be effective before and after exercise, liquid is generally recommended because of how quickly it is absorbed and nutrients are delivered to the muscles.
How important is post-exercise nutrition?
For most recreational exercisers post-workout feedings and snacks are not critical, but they can increase the potential benefits you receive from your workout, help you to prevent injury, fight fatigue, and avoid the stress of overtraining.
What is the bottom line answer when it comes to post-exercise meals?
While post recovery snacks and meals are important, they are not as significant to recreational exercisers as they are to endurance athletes. I always encourage my clients to remember that there’s research, there’s “ideal,” and then there’s real life. If you don’t fuel according the latest research that’s not to say that you won’t experience positive results. It is suggesting that you can improve your performance and get even better results when you fuel properly. My advice is to do the best you can in terms of health-conscious choices, not just post-recovery, but all the time, because you deserve to look and feel your best.
Best in Health,
Angie Miller is the star and creator of the Bedroom Body™ Workout and other top selling exercise DVD’s. Passionate about fitness and education, Angie teaches at Northern Illinois University and is a Certification Specialist for the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). She is a freelance writer, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and proud mom. Learn more about Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com