Post workout meals deliver the proper nutrients to the muscle in a timely manner in order to help the body start the recovery process quickly. A good post workout meal will help you get stronger, gain more muscle and improve your overall fitness level.
Effects of Exercise on Muscle Tissue
Exercise damages the muscle by causing tiny tears in the tissue. These tears cause soreness the next day and eventually result in strength, size and performance gains. The body treats this damage as an injury. With the proper nutrients and rest, the body will fix damage caused by exercise.
Overtraining happens when you either workout too much, don't give your body enough rest or don't provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs to recover. If the tiny tears inside the muscle aren't fixed and you keep exercising, the muscle will become more damaged causing you to become weaker instead of stronger. Overtraining can be avoided by giving your body the tools it needs to recover (nutrients and rest).
Body's Priorities After Exercise
There are three main types of energy the body can burn during exercise: fats, proteins or carbohydrates. There are many factors that determine what your body will burn including the intensity and duration of your workout. The body prefers to use carbohydrates because they can provide your body with a lot of energy in a short period of time.
Glucose is the sugar found in the blood. When you exercise, your body burns glucose for energy causing a drop in your blood sugar level. The body likes to keep blood glucose levels within a certain range to keep you functioning properly. To raise glucose levels back to normal, your body uses glycogen.
Glycogen is the storage form of glucose and is kept in the liver and muscle tissue. When your blood glucose drops, your body calls on glycogen stores to help keep you going. Once glycogen stores start to get lower, your body can begin to breakdown muscle tissue in order to convert it into glucose.
After exercise, your body's main priority is to replenish energy stores that were depleted during exercise. If it has to, the body will breakdown muscle tissue to achieve its goal. A good post workout meal will give the body the nutrients it needs to avoid muscle catabolism (catabolism - breakdown of muscle tissue) and replenish energy stores with food sources.
Best Post Workout Meal
The best post workout meal will give your body the proper nutrients very quickly. The proper nutrients include simple sugars and protein in a liquid form. Liquid is digested a lot faster than whole food because your stomach doesn't have to work as hard to mechanically digest the food, the blender does most of the work. Simple sugars are digested very quickly giving your body the nutrients it needs to avoid muscle breakdown and replenish energy stores. Protein is the building block of all muscle tissue and will start to repair any damage caused by exercise.
Simple sugar is found in foods such as fruit, honey, ice cream and chocolate milk. Protein supplements best suited for recovery are whey and casein proteins. Whey is digested very quickly giving your body the nutrients it needs right away while casein is digested a lot slower helping to sustain the recovery process over a longer period of time. For the best results, use both proteins in a post workout shake.
Recovery Continues All Day
The recovery process doesn't stop with a post workout meal. It is a continuous process that takes days to complete. Recovery requires a healthy diet, plenty of rest and an adequate amount of calories. For the best results, get 6-8 hours of sleep each night, eat nutritious foods as often as possible and take in the appropriate number of calories.
The Bottom Line
The recovery process makes you stronger by fixing the damage done to muscle tissue during exercise. The recovery process is dependent on proper nutrients, enough calories and an adequate amount of rest. The best post workout meal will give your body a quick supply of energy in order to replace glucose and glycogen burned during exercise. This will spare muscle protein from being broken down and converted into energy. A post workout shake will also supply your body with the protein it needs to start fixing any damage sustained by your muscle tissue.