Since I have started training I have realized that post-workout nutrition is by far the most important meal of the day. This is especially true for others who work all day, have kids, a significant other, and also train. These daily stresses take a significant toll on the human body. If you do not give your body its needed nutrients it weakens your immune system which makes you more susceptible to sickness, your muscles take longer to recover, and it can cause chronic fatigue (that constant feeling of be tired ALL the time), and there are numerous other negative health aspects as well.
The biggest mistake people make it not doing anything about post-workout nutrition. In fact, most people are extremely misinformed and have cultivated a sort of 'nutritional ignorance' when it comes to this aspect of training. People who work out regularly stay lean and fit simply from the high volumes of training they are doing. Unfortunately, you can still look good without spending a whole lot of time worrying about proper food intake. It is true, skinny people are sometimes the most unhealthy people because they think they can get away with eating poorly based on their current physical composition.
Basically, the muscles are most efficient at carbohydrate and energy uptake AFTER a workout. The bulk of an athlete's post-workout calories should come during a 30-minute 'window' after you get done exercising. During this time the ingested energy (coming from protein and quality carbohydrates) will go to replenishing the depleted muscle energy stores (also called glycogen) and enhance muscle recovery. Many people subscribed to the body-builder type recovery.... protein, protein.... and more protein. However, the basic mechanism of post-workout carbohydrates is to give the muscles enough energy to stimulate protein production. Post-workout carbs decrease the rate of protein degradation in muscles, and simultaneously increase whole-body protein synthesis.
Glycogen is the energy stores in your muscles that the body uses for fuel when we have not ingested any calories. During exercise glycogen stores become depleted, and it is how you replenish glycogen that has an affect on your recovery. If you were a car, let's say you start out with a full tank of gas on Monday, you drive day in and day out and maybe on Thursday your 'fuel light' comes on. So you put five bucks in your car and drive another day, the next day put another five bucks in, but you never completely fill it back up. I am sure you have heard that your car gets better gas mileage when your car has a full tank. Just like your body, when you start out with a full tank of muscle energy (glycogen) and run it down day after day, never taking the time to refuel, your performance decreases at an alarming rate.
Synopsis: when you choose recovery foods and fluids wisely you will optimally replensish your body's energy stores and recover more quickly for your next workout. For the endurance athlete who must often train twice in one day, this is essential to prevent chronic fatigue and promote peak performance. Make sense?
I will finish up this two-part series later this week.
A special thanks for the people who have sponsored my Ironman so far:
My grandparents; Dewey and Mary Orr of Riverside, Washington
Denise Merten of Tempe, Arizona
Pro Swim Coach John Tunstall of Phoenix, Arizona
And Betty Crawford of Ephrata, Washington
Thanks a million! Every bit helps!
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going"