Most people who read up on this fail to realise that when articles are written about the ‘optimum’ time to refuel they are talking about those who want to build muscle and have had a very intense weights workout, or those who are in training for long distance events and have been running, cycling etc. for over an hour.
There is however some very sensible guidelines that are relevant to those of us who workout to keep or get fit and either maintain or lose weight.
Recently there have been 25 studies undertaken which show that the narrow window we hear so much about is an ‘illusion’ and eating an hour after exercise is no less beneficial than eating immediately. Muscles are ready to take up protein after being worked hard in order for them to repair. Glycogen stores (energy) are depleted to a degree depending on the length and type of workout.
The key is to eat before you get too hungry and your blood sugar drops which is likely to lead to poor choices. This is the same advice given for everyday nutrition not just after exercise. Avoid the state of ‘must eat NOW’ if you want to make wise food choices!
We generally overestimate the amount of calories we burn during exercise. If your goal is to maintain or lose weight then be mindful of overcompensating. Think of food after exercise as a component of your overall eating plan for that day and not ‘free calories’.
If you are hungry eat. Don’t eat because you exercised.
It is very important to meet your nutritional needs if you are active and expect your body to perform well for you.
If you are having a snack rather than a meal, make sure it has both protein and healthy carbohydrates. This will mean you feel much more satisfied as the energy from your food will release slowly.
Some Snack Ideas:
Hummus and carrot sticks or wholewheat crackers. (Chickpeas are rich in protein)
Fruit and a handful of nuts or healthy peanut butter.
Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit.
Cereal or porridge (it doesn’t have to be breakfast -time!)
You might know that hummus is pureed chickpeas but did you know that they contain nearly double the protein of quinoa and are much cheaper?
Some meal ideas:
Wholewheat pitta with tuna, chicken or hummus and added lemon juice for flavour is great for keeping the calories low and the fibre content high.
Vegetables and fruit can be added to increase the nutritional content of any meal.
Brown rice or quinoa, avocado, beans and salsa.
Chicken and roasted vegetables
Did you know that spinach has more magnesium, potassium and sodium (beneficial after a workout) than kale?
As is generally the case with this sort of topic, there is no answer that will apply to everyone. I have addressed the subject to suit my audience but if it leaves you wanting more information please get in touch.