Refueling after a hard workout is just as essential as the workout. First, let’s talk about what constitutes a “hard” workout. So how do you know if your workout is considered “hard”?
What is Considered a “Hard” Workout?
- The workout is high intensity, defined by the American Council of Exercise (ACE) as activity performed at an exertion level of 7 on a 10-point scale or 75 percent or more of your heart’s aerobic capacity.
- The exercise exhausts your muscles, meaning you couldn’t possibly do one more rep of a particular exercise and you feel fatigued.
- You experience a significant increase in your heart rate. Since exercise intensity tends to be a subjective measure based on your perceived level of exertion (or in simple terms, how you feel), a more objective measure of intensity is heart rate. Generally speaking, higher heart rate = harder workout.
Why Replenish Post-Workout?
It’s important to replenish your body within 2 hours post workout. Nourishing your body with the correct fuel post workout ensures proper glycogen replacement and increased protein synthesis.
Glycogen? Protein synthesis? Those are awfully big terms.
Simply put, glycogen is the stored form of glucose, or sugar, in our muscles that serve as a form of energy during exercise. Protein synthesis involves the repair and rebuilding of proteins broken down during intense physical activity such as strength training.
What Should I Eat Post-Workout?
- Consume high protein foods: lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish. Beans and nuts are also a great alternative for those who don’t consume meat.
- Consume complex carbohydrate foods: options like vegetables and whole grains. Stay away from things high in sugar and white, processed grains.
Aim to pair a complex carbohydrate with a lean protein to reap the most benefit!
- Banana or whole grain toast and nut butter
- Greek yogurt and fruit
- Carrots and hummus
- Protein bar or shake
- Turkey sandwich
- Low fat chocolate milk
- Eggs and whole grain toast
- Apple slices and cheese
Remember to choose your post workout snacks based on your overall fitness goal. Are you trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight? Think of your body as a balance.
Consuming less calories than you exert during exercise will facilitate weight loss. In contrast, taking in more than is expended leads to weight gain. Be mindful of this concept and give your body what it needs to meet your goals.