It’s a common misconception that strength training leads to fuller, stronger muscles. While it’s true that training is the stimulus for growth, it’s actually the recovery and proper nourishment immediately following your training that fuel your muscles, energy and strength. Intense training leaves your muscles screaming for vital nutrients necessary for rebuilding your body stronger. Yet, you don’t experience this post-workout hunger on a cellular level. In fact, you may not even feel hungry after working out. Even worse, you may intentionally avoid eating as a weight-loss strategy; thinking to yourself, “why eat, I just worked out and burned off all those calories?”Yet, post-training is the right time to feed your strength. Following exercise, your body exhibits an elevated metabolic rate, much like it does upon awakening. Starving yourself following training stalls your metabolic rate and throws you into a catabolic state, breaking down muscle tissue. As a result, your hard effort goes unrewarded and you’ve actually improved your body’s ability to store fat. As soon as your workout is over the clock starts ticking—the sooner you shuttle in optimal nutrition, the better. Most experts agree that the first 30 to 45 minutes following your training are the most critical to capturing the full benefits of your hard work. Now just because you’re training hard doesn’t mean you have license to unlimited crullers at the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Rather, it’s time to infuse your muscles with high-quality proteins, complex carbohydrates and other essential nutrients:
Protein—essential to the structure and function of every cell in your body. In addition to its leading role in the formation of muscle, protein can elevate your mood, increase mental focus, sustain energy and support your metabolism (fat loss, lasting satiety).
Carbohydrates—the primary and essential source of energy for your entire body and mind. They fuel your nervous system, brain and muscles. As a part of a well-balanced meal, carbohydrates help the effective delivery of proteins and tell the brain, “You’ve got energy.”
Stick with complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes), as they gradually release into your bloodstream to provide sustained energy, optimize the delivery of nutrients and offer longer-lasting satiety than do simple carbs (which can trigger fat storage).
Veggies and most fruits are good sources of energy and are rich in vital nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber).
Fats—essential fats, including omega-3’s, omega-6’s and others, are vital for your optimal physical and mental performance. They provide fuel for energy, support fat loss and promote optimal cellular health. Curtail your intake of the unhealthy fats (saturated and trans-fat).
Every time you choose to fuel your body with balanced nutrition you take a step toward freedom and a life of strength, energy and vitality. TIP: Drink Water, Use Sports Drinks for… Sports. These brightly colored, exotic-flavored performance drinks are often extremely high in sugar (some with high fructose corn syrup). Sure, there are some electrolytes for that post-marathon depletion, but they are not a replacement for water. If you absolutely must have your “ade” – great! Slam one down after you’ve climbed off the bike after a three-hour mountain ride, at half-time during the Super Bowl in which you’re playing, or whenever you’re being an athlete.