| Experts Stress Post-Exercise
may be considered evil in this age of the low-carb diet revolution,
but the nutrient plays an important role in helping athletes recover
from strenuous exercise.
Two decades of research have shown
that consuming carbs after a hard workout rebuilds worn muscles
and primes the body for the next training. Failure to eat the
right food after exercise or worse skipping the
post-exercise meal altogether can harm your body.
"You never think that you can just
continue to ride your car without ever going to the gas station.
We can't expect to be able to continue to exercise our bodies
without refueling them," said Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist
of the American Council on Exercise.
Carbs the main source of
energy during physical activity are stored as glycogen
in muscle cells. During exercise, the glycogen reserves deplete
and an intake of carbs is needed to replenish the body. Neglecting
or avoiding the post-workout meal could result in muscle breakdown
and leave your body feeling fatigued during the next workout.
In 2000, the American College of
Sports Medicine, along with the American Dietetic Association
and the Dietitians of Canada, reviewed numerous studies on the
subject and took a stand on the issue. In a published joint position
statement, they acknowledged the importance of post-game nutrition
on athletic performance.
How much carbs should be eaten
after exercise depends on the duration and intensity of the workout,
as well as when the next training will occur. For example, a post-workout
meal is generally more essential for a triathlete who runs in
the morning and cycles in the afternoon than a marathoner who
just runs one race. That's because the triathlete needs to refuel
in between workouts while the marathoner has more time between
runs to recover.
Experts recommend that carbs be
eaten 30 minutes to an hour after vigorous exercise since that's
when the body will act like a sponge and absorb the nutrients.
Some post-workout snacks may include cooked pasta, rice, English
muffin, oatmeal or low-fat yogurt.
The casual health club visitor
may not need to follow the post-workout rule as strictly because
the body will naturally take in carbs from other meals during
the day. But experts say it doesn't hurt to consume a carb-rich
snack after workout to get a boost of energy.
Recent research shows that a combination
of carbs and protein can also help the body recoup. Protein helps
repair muscle damage, but carbs are king when it comes to replenishing
carbohydrate stores. Eating too much protein after exercise is
not good either because it can slow rehydration.
The general guideline is a carb
intake of a half-gram per pound of body weight. So a 150-pound
person should eat about 75 grams of carbs, or the equivalent of
a cup of cooked pasta.
"That is really going to be the
only way that you're going to be able to continue to power your
working muscles," said Cindy Moore, a Cleveland-based registered
dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
For those who are weight-conscious
and wary about consuming too many carbs, experts say they still
should make sure to eat the right food after intense exercise.
But they can take steps like limiting carb-rich snacks that are
high in simple sugars like cookies and cakes and eat more nutritious
carb sources like legumes and whole-grain cereals.
"This isn't going to sabotage weight-loss
efforts," Bryant said. "If anything, it will allow you to be more
productive in your exercise, which in the long term is going to
help you with your weight-loss efforts."
Nancy Clark, nutrition guidebook
author and sports nutritionist at a fitness center in Chestnut
Hill, Mass., advises that athletes plan their post-workout meal
in advance to prevent unhealthy snacking afterward.
Lisa Avellino, a certified personal
trainer and aerobics instructor from Scarsdale, N.Y., said most
of her clients understand the importance of eating after exercising,
many do not know the correct food ratios and combinations to maximize
"When they learn how they can combine
certain foods and make subtle changes in their dietary post-workout
meal, they get better results," she said.
Reference Source 102