Some people say that the most important meal of the day is your breakfast. I would argue that the most important meal is every one!
You should NEVER skip a meal because it’s what your body needs to maintain and replenish itself on a daily basis. When looking at fitness goals I would say that the most beneficial meal is what you eat straight after you train.
When we train we deplete a lot of our energy stores and we also use up other stores such as fluid and vitamins and minerals. Before we look at what we should eat below is a list of things that we loss/deplete in our body during and after training.
Water – Fluid is lost through sweat and we need to replace it straight away as water is used for so many function in the body.
Electrolytes – These are the minerals lost in sweat (eg sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium) and are needed to help repair your body after exercise and keep it going during as well.
Carbohydrates – During and after exercise your muscle glycogen stores have been depleted and maybe even exhausted, so we need to refuel. You need to get the right amount and also to top up liver glycogen stores, which serve as a reserve to maintain correct blood sugar levels. The other function of carbohydrates is to help with the syntheses of protein to the muscles.
The function of protein is to repair and regenerate muscle fibres damaged during exercise, to promote muscle growth, and to replenish the amino acid pool within the body.
Now that we know what we lose during exercise we need to find out how and when to replace it.
Water and electrolytes
This part can be very easy to solve! Our bodies always strive to maintain optimum water and electrolyte balance, so as long as we consume plenty of fluids after training and eat a reasonably balanced diet (which will contain electrolyte minerals), full rehydration will occur as a matter of course.
It’s quite easy to tell when we’re fully hydrated – a pale straw-coloured urine and frequent urination being the most obvious signs. A little tip is to drink semi skimmed milk as it can help promote fluid retention quicker than water or a sports drinks. I always consume 24 Hydrate, it’s not only fantastic at replacing everything I’ve lost during exercise but is great to drink during the day to keep me hydrated and it tastes delicious. It’s a better, less sugary alternative to some sports drinks and other juices.
Refuelling muscles with carbohydrate is less straightforward. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen and the purpose of muscle glycogen is to fuel physical activity.
These stores will be depleted during exercise and will need replaced. How depleted the muscles stores are depends on the intensity and duration of your workout.
If you concentrated on fast, explosive activities like sprinting then you will deplete more glycogen stores rather than walking for an equal duration. If you went for an hour run, you will use up more glycogen than running at the same pace for half an hour.
The best time to start refuelling is straight after training, as glycogen storage is faster during the post exercise ‘window’ (which is said to be between 15–120 min after exercise). During this time you should consume high GI carbohydrates like white pasta and bread as these are broken down in your system a lot quicker than low GI foods like brown rice and bread.
Low GI foods release energy slower into the blood stream and can help in the hours after your training as the muscle have become more sensitive to insulin the anabolic hormone that helps drive glucose into muscle the cells.
When glycogen stores are high protein contributes to less than five per-cent of energy but when stores are low it contributes up to 15 per-cent! So depending on the duration and intensity of your workout will depend on the amount of protein that needs to be replenished.
The main reason protein is needed is to repair and build muscle after training, this is why the protein requirements of a strength trainer and an endurance trainer differ. A strength trainer will need to consume at least 25grams of protein after a heavy weights session as the rate of breakdown and synthesis (muscle building) increases.
The best form of protein at this stage is ‘whey’, as it is digested more rapidly, taking only about two hours to release its amino acids which are essential for building muscle. Other forms of protein like casein are a slow-releasing protein, taking up to seven hours to release its amino acids, these will help maintain and sustain muscle growth well after your training session.
It is important to know that combining protein and carbohydrates has been scientifically shown to be more effective in promoting both endurance and strength recovery. So for anyone out there looking to bulk up, you still need carbs for energy and also straight after training so you can speed up the rate at which your muscle repair and build.
Now that we know what to take and when to take it just a matter of how much we need to take. When looking to rehydrate researchers suggest that you should consume approximately 1.2-1.5 times the weight of fluid lost during training. The simplest way to work this out is weigh yourself before and after training. Work on the basis that one litre of sweat is equivalent to 1kg but don’t drink massive volumes of water in one go, drink as much as you feel comfortable with.
When it comes to carbohydrate consumption most researchers recommend consuming 1g/kg body weight during the two-hour post-exercise. So, for example, if you weigh 70kg you need to consume 70g carbohydrate within two hours of exercise.
Finally protein intake after training depends on your training. For endurance athletes it should be consumed as a 4:1 ratio with carbohydrates (for every four grams of carbs two gram of protein) and for strength training you should consume at least 25grams of whey protein straight after training, but remember to include carbohydrates.
My post recovery meals
For me I use the whole Herbalife 24 range pre, post and during exercise. To keep me hydrated I use 24 Hydrate which has all the electrolytes my body needs.
Pre workout I take a 24 Formula one shake which has the perfect blend of carbohydrates and protein. During my workout I place some instant herbal tea into my water bottle (yes you can drink it cold) which gives me the added kick to lift more or work harder without the come down a few hours later.
Post workout depends on my session but I mainly consume 24 Rebuild Strength which is not only delicious but contains 25g of protein which is the most your body can consume in one meal, plus it has the right amount of carbs to help rebuild my muscle a lot quicker after exercise. Take a look at my website www.goherbalife.com/coreherbalife/en-GB for more info on the products.
After I have had my post workout shake I always make sure I eat at least one hour after exercise. One of my favourite meals is salmon seasoned with herbs, sweet potato with broccoli, spinach and carrots. Delicious!
To find more about getting the most from your nutrition contact Gary on 07708089130 or find him on Facebook.