A workout is really more than just the workout. First, you have to pick the right workout clothing. Then you’ll pack your bag. You may even grab a bite to eat before your workout – something to fuel you for the upcoming sweat session. Then there’s the warm-up, workout, and cool-down. Lastly, you’ll have to think about your recovery process, which is best initiated with a great post-workout snack. But what exactly is required after a workout for the best recovery? In this article, we will provide you with the key components for the best post-workout snack.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
Sweating is a necessary part of your workout. It helps the body keep cool, regulating the temperature of the body so we can continue to work hard. When we sweat, we lose anywhere from 450mg of salt to 2300mg of sweat (per litre).
Although salt is sometimes vilified in the media, it is essential for maintaining a healthy fluid balance in the body. As we are 60%-70% water, maintaining this healthy fluid balance is crucial. The components of salt – sodium and chloride – are both broken down and used important processes.
Sodium (and potassium) work together to help deliver signals down nerve cells. Chloride is an important electrolyte that helps maintain healthy blood pressure, blood volume, and the pH of your body fluids.
Whatever you decide to eat after your workout, don’t be afraid to add a little salt. Sports recovery drinks and bars will always have a healthy amount of sodium.
Magnesium is a nutrient that we all need to help our muscles recover. This is because it plays an important role in the breaking down – and the rebuilding of tissues in the body during exercise. In fancy-terms it is known as a cofactor.
Its role in muscular performance is well-known, but some studies are also beginning to report that not only does it help break down and repair, but it also helps maintain the integrity of the muscle during exercise. This just means that it protects the muscles from breaking down too much.
The breakdown of muscles during resistance training is inevitable. In fact, this is what is necessary to make our muscles stronger. However, in order to promote the best recovery and adaptation of those muscles, replenishing your magnesium is crucial.
Here are a few of the top sources of magnesium:
- Dark Chocolate
- Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans)
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Whole Grains (dry buckwheat)
- Some Fatty Fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut)
This vitamin, most well-known for its role in eye health, is actually an important part of your muscle recovery. Vitamin A helps with the healthy breakdown of muscles, but it also provides structural components to the muscles.
Vitamin A has also been observed to be an important vitamin for the beta cells of the pancreas. Having enough vitamin A in your diet will help the pancreas deliver insulin in appropriate amounts. A healthy pancreas means better delivery of sugar to the muscles during and after your workout.
The top sources for vitamin A are dairy, liver, fish, and fortified cereals. You can also get “provitamin A” from carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, and squash – but this form of vitamin A isn’t as easily absorbed by the body.
B Vitamins are also known as the energy vitamins. These play an important role in providing the energy to cells to help them repair and recover. They are like the fuel source for the cells. The B-Vitamins also helps break down and repair amino acids. If you don’t remember from grade 11 bio – amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins are what build up just about every structure in the body, most notably the muscular tissue.
Your top sources of B Vitamins are:
- Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet)
- Meat (red meat, poultry, fish)
- Eggs and Dairy Products
- Legumes (lentils and beans)
- Seeds (sunflower seeds and almonds)
- Darky leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, kai lan)
- Fruits (citrus, avocado, banana)
As mentioned previously, sodium and potassium work together to help send signals down nerve cells. They also play a part in the contraction of muscles (a result of a signal from the nervous system). As the muscles contract, there is an exchange of sodium and potassium in and out of the cell, respectively.
This means that there should be adequate amounts of potassium in the body before the workout, to allow for this exchange to occur. There also needs to be a replenishing of potassium to help bring the body back to homeostasis (our every day, regular, function).
Some great options for potassium are:
- Bananas and oranges
- Cooked spinach
- Cooked broccoli
- Sweet potatoes
Despite what the keto and low-carb diets may tell you – you do need carbohydrates. Your choice of carbohydrates will be the determining factor of their effectiveness. Different carbs are processed in different ways. So if you want a quick refuel, then simple carbs like fruits and sugary foods will be ideal to give your body the quick shot of carbs that it needs.
Alternatively, if you choose a slower-digesting carbohydrate, you’ll receive more benefits in the long run. Slow-digesting carbs typically have more fibre. Fibre is a more complex structure for the body to break down. This results in a slower release of glucose, which means you won’t the same insulin spike you would get from simple sugars.
Fibres are also great for your gut health. The healthier your gut, the better your overall health. The better your overall health, the more resources your body can allocate to recovery in a timely manner.
Fibre-rich carbohydrates are also great for managing hunger and satiety. This does not directly impact the recovery of muscles, but can be useful for individuals who are looking to get a great post-workout snack, while also managing their daily caloric intake.
Protein is the building blocks of muscular tissue. So if you are going to spend 30 minutes breaking down your muscles, you will definitely want to include a good source of protein after your workout to help rebuild those muscles.
Many of the vitamins and minerals mentioned before are also found naturally in common sources of protein, which makes protein the real powerhouse of the recover nutrients. There is some speculation around the timing of protein after your workout, and how much you should consume. Although these numbers are useful to professional athletes where every gram of food, and every minute counts – it will not make a huge difference in the every day person’s life.
The important thing to remember is that you want to choose a protein source that provides the right ratios of amino acids. Meat is considered a high-quality protein source because it has all of the amino acids in the right amounts. With that said – this ideal ratio is possible by combining the right plant-based proteins.
Good quality protein powders will also make sure there’s enough protein and enough of the amino acids in a single serving. This is what makes protein powders such an easy supplement to incorporate into your healthy lifestyle. But whole food sources are always preferred.
The final nutrient is water. Water, as we mentioned before, makes up 60-70% of the human body. When we sweat, we lose a significant amount of water. When the body is dehydrated, it cannot function optimally.
This leads to things like headaches, poor muscle recovery, brain fog, and irritability. You should be drinking 2-3 litres of water every day if you want to avoid dehydration. If you are exercising, you will want to drink even more water to ensure you are replacing the water lost during exercise. Water is also a great carrier for nutrients and is used to store nutrients in the tissues for later use.
In fact, it takes 2-3 grams of water to store 1 gram of sugar (in the form of glycogen) in the body. When you start exercising in a fasted state, your body draws on glycogen to create glucose which is then used to fuel your workouts. So make sure you are prioritizing water during the day.
There are a lot of nutrients that are required for recovery. The body is a complex system, and exercise puts a unique stress on the body. The best recommendation we can give you is to eat a variety of whole foods. If you have a source of protein, a dark, leafy vegetable on your plate, and some other colourful add-ins, you will likely be getting all of the nutrients required for recovery.
Also, keep in mind that if your post-workout snack isn’t a whole-food masterpiece, that you still have time to eat whole foods throughout the day. Make sure to pack your day full of the foods we mentioned in this article and you’ll have enough fuel and nutrients within the body to fuel your workout and to recover from your workout.
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