Monday, 15 September 2014

Nutrition : What To Eat Post Exercise

The aspect of sports nutrition that most people have the best understanding of is re-fueling after their workouts. The benefits of replacing the energy you've used as soon as possible are much written about, and in particular the benefits of consuming the "right" balance of proteins and carbohydrates to give the muscles the best opportunity to repair themselves. But what about the amount of food and fluid and when should we be consuming it?

The text books tell us that we should be consuming 1g per kilo body weight of high GI foods up to 2 hours post exercise then 1g per kilo body weight of low GI foods every 2 hours after that. For example, if weigh 60kg so I should be eating 60g of high GI food, such as half a nutella sandwich, after exercise and then another 60g of something such as a cereal bar around 2 hours after that.

The reasoning behind taking on high GI foods first is that these are more readily absorbed by the body, so the nutrients and glucose get into your system quickly. This means that you are less likely to suffer a crash immediately after periods of exertion. This is something I've experienced myself after my longer runs in the past, to the point I would get faint and dizzy. Scary for me and those around me. High GI foods cause a spike and consequent crash in your blood sugar levels so it's important to follow up with the low GI foods to stabilise them out.

So the theory is all well and good but what does this mean in practical terms? Well examples of good post-exercise foods are:
  • Fresh fruit smoothie made with yoghurt and milk
  • Cereal bar 
  • Slice of malt loaf
  • A handful of nuts and dried fruit
  • A sandwich/wrap or roll filled with lean meat such as tuna, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese 
  • Rice cakes or oatcakes with jam/peanut butter or low fat cream cheese 
  • Bowl of cereal and milk
If you can't stomach solid foods immediately after exercise then the smoothie, chocolate milk (not milkshake), specially designed sports recovery drink or a protein shake are all good options, not least because they will help replace fluids you'll have lost as well.

Which leads me nicely onto a final word on hydration. After any activity you should aim to replace any outstanding fluid loss (bodyweight loss) by about 150% as soon as possible. So if you're a kilo lighter after exercise than when you started, you should aim to consume 1.5 litres over the course of the next few hours. Any recovery drinks you take will contribute to this, as will rehydration drinks, tea, coffee, squash... it doesn't have to be water! Obviously it's not realistic to be weighting ourselves before and after every session but you'll have a sense of whether you sweat a lot and you can judge accordingly.

I'm going to be trying to apply this theory to myself for real after Equinox24 at the weekend... I suspect eating 60g of anything will not be a problem!

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