No matter the reason for exercising (losing weight, gaining weight, gaining more muscle, improving your fitness, etc.), you should always plan your pre and post-workout meals.
Even when it comes to long-term competitions and tests of endurance (such as marathons), small intakes of carbohydrate-rich, easily digestible foods are recommended to replenish losses. Here we will discuss post-workout snack options that will help you achieve the best results.
What is the window of recovery?
The window of recovery, or metabolic window, is the 45-60 minute period after the practice of physical exercise during which the body is very receptive to the nutrients we provide it with. This time is essential to replenish any nutrients, fluids and electrolytes lost during sports.
The peak period of muscle sensitivity, when your muscles will most readily absorb nutrients, occurs 15-20 minutes after you finish your training session. That is why it’s so important that you consume foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins and that you hydrate properly to replenish glycogen in the liver and muscles, normalize electrolyte levels and hydration, and promote the synthesis of new proteins and regeneration of muscle mass.
What nutrients need to be replenished after physical activity?
During physical exercise (even more so when it comes to endurance exercises) you lose a lot of fluid through sweat and breathing, so you should drink water for optimum hydration. You should weigh yourself before and after training, in order to see the amount of water lost and then you should replace that water during the metabolic window.
As far as carbohydrates, you should choose foods with a high glycemic index, which do not have fiber, to replenish the glycogen in your muscles and liver and stop the catabolic process (the degradation of nutrients for use as energy). You should also incorporate foods rich in protein, because during sports performance your body consumes protein and breaks down muscle fibers. In this way, you stimulate the synthesis of new proteins and the growth of your muscle mass.
Advantages of replenishing nutrients during this metabolic phase
Consuming the right nutrients after physical activity has the following benefits:
- Since your body breaks down a lot of nutrients during physical exercise, there is a lot of waste left over. By replenishing nutrients and water, you favor the disposal of this waste.
- You recover faster and do not fall into a feeling of fatigue or general tiredness.
- It will help you replenish the glycogen you will need to perform your next exercise routine.
You will avoid losing muscle mass (it is never advisable to decrease the percentage of muscle in your body) and you favor the development of more muscle.
The best post-workout meals
You can replenish lost nutrients using regular foods or through drinks and supplements specific to athletes. The most recommended options are:
- Fresh water or isotonic drinks (they have a composition that favors rehydration). You should not include energy drinks, which are rich in caffeine, because they can cause nervousness, insomnia and hyperactivity after sports.
- It’s important to clarify that the best thing for hydration is water.
- Recovery gels, which are rich in easily assimilated carbohydrates.
- Protein powders (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cappuccino) to effectively replenish proteins
- Protein and carbohydrate shakes for athletes
- Low-fat yogurt or low-fat milk with cereals
- Low fat Greek yogurt and a large banana
- White bread with quince and cheese
- Chocolate milk with sweet biscuits or low fat salads (less than 10-12% fat)
- Energy bars
- White bread sandwich with tuna
- Water-based crackers with sliced white cheese
- Protein powder shake with fresh fruit
- Milkshake with almonds, pineapple and banana