There are a lot of conflicting messages you get about eating after training. Either you’re not feel hungry right away and delay eating or just the opposite and end up over eating due to excessive hunger. There’s no one exact answer since everyone’s nutrition needs may vary depending on your training and nutrition goals, but here are some simple tips to avoid common post-recovery nutrition mistakes.
1. Eating a too much fat. I don’t want you to get the impression that eating fat is unhealthy or that you should avoid healthy fats in your diet, but eating too much fat right after a workout can slow down digestion. Insulin sensitivity is high right after training, so if you eat a high fat meal, your muscle cells cannot absorb the sugar from food which negatively impacts your muscle recovery. Instead of eating a bacon, cheese and egg sandwich post run, consider low fat yogurt with berries or oatmeal prepared with milk and fruit.
2. Drinking a sport drink. If you are exercising in hot, humid conditions and won’t be eating a recovery meal within 30 to 60 minutes after training, then it’s OK to drink a sports drink containing electrolytes and carbs to help rehydrate and restore muscle glycogen. But if you can fit in a recovery meal or snack within 30 to 60 minutes after training, you will most likely get enough sodium and fluids from the foods and beverages you are eating to start muscle recovery and rehydration and can skip that sports drink.
3. Waiting too long to eat. We’ve all heard that you should try eating within 30 minutes after a workout to help restore muscle glycogen and repair muscle fibers. Waiting longer than an hour may delay this recovery process and impact your training the next day. If it’s a mealtime after your training session, eat your recovery meal, but if it’s between meals, try eating a smaller recovery snack combining protein and healthy carbs, like a protein smoothie prepared with milk, yogurt, and fruit or a small turkey wrap.
4. Eating too many added sugars. Foods with added sugars are OK to eating during training since our muscles are using simple carbs to maintain energy and prevent muscle glycogen stores from running empty. But refueling with sugary drinks or foods right after training only contributes to increased inflammation which negatively impacts your recovery. Instead choose healthier carbs with natural sugars, such as fruit or milk, or complex carbs such as whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or potatoes.
5. Drinking alcohol. I’m sure we’ve all celebrated occasionally after a long run or race with a cold beer or cocktail, but drinking alcohol right after a hard workout or long run can actually impair your recovery instead. Alcohol increases inflammation and decreases blood flow, as well as can act like a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to release more fluids rather than rehydrating it.
6. Eating too much protein and not enough carbs.If you look at some of the food labels on pre-made nutrition shakes, they contain too much protein and not enough carbs. Don’t get me wrong, you do need protein, primarily from leucine; but, post exercise carbs should still be the focus to help restore muscle glycogen and maintain blood sugars. The right ratio of carbs to protein post exercise should be 3 to 1. For example, if you eat a post-recovery snack containing 30 grams of carb, then the amount of protein should be close to 10 grams. No matter how much you eat whether it’s a meal or snack, make sure you aren’t skimping on the carbs by balancing the right ratio with protein to help with your recovery.