Want to see results from your exercise program, especially if you’re lifting weights? Your training isn’t finished until you’ve refueled! Remember post-workout recovery has 3 R’s: repair, replete, and rehydrate. Consuming quick-digesting protein and carbs, as well as fluids and electrolytes, within 1 hour after your workout is essential to achieve these 3 R’s and build your muscles. Let’s take a closer look at the 3 R’s below.
1) Repair with Protein: Working out, especially lifting weights, results in microtears to your muscle cells due to repeated nerve impulses and mechanical stress. Therefore, right after a workout, your muscles are primed to soak up protein to repair and rebuild so they can better accommodate the exercise stress next time. In other words, right after a workout is when your muscles are looking for protein so they can get bigger! It’s essential to have a high quality, quick-digesting source of protein right after exercise so that amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can get right into your muscles and be used for muscle protein synthesis (or muscle growth). Whey is the highest quality post-workout quick-digesting protein. Other good protein choices are milk, eggs, and lean animal meats, or pea protein for vegetarians or lactose intolerant individuals. You want about 20-30g of high quality protein right after a workout. Make sure your protein is low-fat, since fat slows digestion and you want the protein to go right to your muscles.
2) Replete with Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. During exercise, especially higher intensity exercise modalities like strength training, your body relies mostly on muscle glycogen, or the carbohydrate stored in your muscle cells. Therefore, by the end of a workout, your muscle glycogen is depleted. It’s essential to replete your muscle glycogen by consuming quick-digesting carbohydrates that are relatively low in fiber, such as fruit or low-fiber starches. Fruit provides the added benefit of antioxidants, which help to reduce oxidative stress (cell damage) from exercise, and a host of other vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. You want more carbohydrate than protein post-workout.
3) Rehydrate with Fluid and Electrolytes: You lose a fair amount of body water and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) via sweat during exercise. So after workouts it’s essential to rehydrate- drink plenty of water and replenish both sodium and potassium. Drink at least as much fluid as you lose in sweat (weighing yourself before and after exercise is a good way to gauge how much fluid you need to replenish). Make sure to include foods containing sodium and potassium after a workout.
A post-workout smoothie is an ideal way to get your protein, carbs, fluid, and electrolytes in a quick digesting manner. Make sure your smoothie has 20-30g of high quality, quick digesting protein like whey; more carbohydrate than protein; plenty of fluid, sodium, and potassium; and is low in fat and fiber.
Below is my favorite post-workout smoothie that can work as a meal replacement. The whey protein is ideal for building muscle, the berries provide quick-digesting carbs and a host of antioxidants like vitamin C, the spinach
gives you some extra greens (which you can't taste!) and reduces acidity in your body after a workout, and the almond milk provides additional fluid and electrolytes. This smoothie has almost 1000 mg of potassium- almost ¼ of your daily needs! I add only 1 scoop of all natural almond butter for a little monounsaturated fat to reduce inflammation and keep you full (since we’re using this smoothie to replace a meal), but not enough to interfere with the digestion of the protein and carbs. I hope you enjoy!
Gabbi’s Favorite Post-Workout Smoothie
1 scoop vanilla whey protein (20-30g)
1 cup blueberries (raw)
1 cup whole strawberries (raw)
1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon all natural almond butter
8 oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy as a meal replacement right after your workout!
Nutrition Facts (1 serving)
Total Fat: 12 g (5g monounsaturated, 2g polyunsaturated, 1g saturated, 0g trans fat)
Cholesterol: 15 mg
Sodium: 269 mg
Potassium: 914 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40 g
Protein: 33 g
Vitamin A: 68 %
Vitamin C: 179 %
Calcium: 68 %
Iron: 18 %