By Lisa Reddy
The advent of warmer weather means more and more of us are shedding layers and heading outside or to the gym, for that hurried pre-summer workout. But after that spin class, run, or weight session, what are you supposed to eat to ensure you see results and properly repair muscle?
Kyle Byron, a Toronto-based nutritionist and personal trainer who has coached nearly 2,000 people over the past 10 years, says the answer is pretty simple, despite food fads, conflicting studies, and busy schedules.
The first step? Hydration. “You should drink [water] until you’re full,” Byron says. Sweat rates in a hot environment can be nearly three litres, he explains, so rehydrating your body with as much water as possible immediately after a workout is vital. The water should be room temperature, says Byron, which makes it easier for your body to absorb.
Carbohydrates and protein
Step two — food, either liquid or solid, no matter how sweaty and tired you may be.
“After a workout we need to replace the carbs we burned and we need protein to retain and repair our muscles,” says Byron. This can be a simple snack of Greek yogurt, a smoothie, or a larger meal of chicken and rice. It should also be consumed within two hours of exercise. Orange juice mixed with protein powder is also a great alternative, because it combines necessary hydration with vitamin C, carbohydrates and calcium.
Sports and health enthusiasts refer to the post-workout time period as a “window of opportunity,” where the immune system is down — but muscles are primed to readily accept nutrients.
For those watching their carbohydrate or caloric intake, “now is not the time to have a restrictive approach,” Bryon says. The calories consumed after exercise go towards muscle stores, and while it may seem counter-intuitive to eat after a workout even if you’re not hungry, your body will use the calories as energy.
Portion your food properly
According to Byron, how much you should eat depends on a few factors.
First, your size. Byron advises his clients to eat protein based on the size of their fist — between a half or one fist-sized portion of protein should suffice, he says.
Secondly, the intensity of your workout. If you complete a vigorous training session, such as hot yoga or CrossFit, between one and two fists of carbs are needed to ensure your body can properly recover and build muscle.
Prep before your workout
As for those who struggle enough with scheduling exercise, not to mention their post-workout meal, Byron has a few simple words of advice.
“It comes down to a good routine with grocery shopping and meal prep,” he explains. “It’s really easy to get post-workout nutrition — you just have to get it into your house.”
Let us know what you think by tweeting @YahooStyleCA.