A: This is an excellent question and can best be answered by understanding what happens to our bodies when we exercise.
Exercise causes the depletion of the glycogen stores (which are carbohydrates that are stored in muscles) and the breakdown of muscle protein.
Immediately after exercise is the ideal time to replete these stores of carbohydrates and proteins. It is critical that you eat at least six hours post exercise in order to provide the raw materials that are needed for muscle recovery. If you fail to eat post exercise, you diminish the chance to promote full recovery of your muscles.
Muscles are the most efficient at carbohydrate and energy uptake during these six hours, so the bulk of the day’s calorie intake should ideally come during this time.
Since muscles typically need 24-48 hours to repair and rebuild, the idea is to consume enough carbohydrates in the 6-hour time frame to promote the release of a hormone called insulin which helps to shuttle carbohydrates and amino acids (the building blocks for protein repair) into the muscles. Elevated insulin levels promote the storage of glycogen which helps to promote protein repair. The ideal amount of carbohydrate intake is 0.8-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight which maximizes glycogen syntheses and accelerates protein repair. The ideal amount of protein that should be consumed is 0.2-0.4 grams per kilogram of body weight. You can calculate your weight in kilograms by taking your body weight in pounds and dividing that by 2.2.
It’s best to avoid fats post workout as fats slows digestion and transit time of nutrients through the gastrointestinal tract. Liquid supplements are ideal, especially ones that contain whey proteins and carbohydrates. Solid foods tend to be harder to digest post exercise, but if you do choose to consume solid foods, then focus on items such as fruits, yogurt, cottage cheese or even chocolate milk.
So, after your work out, maximize your recovery by consuming the ideal amounts of proteins and carbohydrates and staying well hydrated. Our bodies perform best if we give them the proper substrates needed to rebuild.
Until, keep working out with your Total Gym and sculpting your physique!!
Elizabeth Salada, MD
Dr. Salada is board certified in Internal Medicine and has been in practice in San Diego since 1996. She attended medical school at Wake Forest University where she received high honors in Family Practice and Internal Medicine. Her final training was obtained from Pennsylvania State University where she completed her residency in Internal Medicine. Visit Dr. Salada’s website for more information: http://elizabethsaladamd.com.