A healthy diet and nutrition has been forever focused on breakfast being key to your daily performance and eating habits. You have hear it over and over again, read it everywhere, and been asked about it time and time again by trainers and nutritionists who work with you – Breakfast. What are you eating, when and why? They will tell you how breakfast is the single most important meal of the day.
These exercise and nutrition professionals will tell you how you have to have it to get your metabolism jump-started after a 7-8 hour sleepy slow down, and that eating breakfast will assist you in potentially losing weight through the day. It is true that skipping breakfast is a bad idea, especially if it forces you to over-feed at lunch or dinner. Assuming a lunch at noon and dinner at 8:00 the night before, one will have gone up to 16 hours without a meal if they pass on breakfast. On a regular basis this is detrimental to your weight as well as your mental and behavioral functions. I do advocate starvation practices over the short term and on a planned and infrequent basis, but as a way of life well, we have to eat.
While skipping breakfast can cause you to eat more than normal at your following meals and can lead to unhealthy snacking and craving, this does not make it the most important meal of your day. Being the intense, weight training, fit, fighting machine, that you are – the most important you eat each day is the first meal immediately after your vigorous workout! This is the key to exercise nutrition.
‘Post Workout Nutrition’ is an important practice that has to be done correctly to maximize all of your time and effort in the gym. Feeding those starving muscles the correct ingredients and at the right time can help trigger recovery and muscle growth to ensure you build the most muscle possible. And as we have hammered home in previous articles, more muscle burns more calories and fat!
Too many people spend too much time in the gym, training with intensity, yet failing to show much or any progress even after a year of training. Many times the culprit is not the exercise or effort, but rather it is the timing of nutrients and nutrition after your session. Immediately after training your body is still breaking down muscle (catabolic), not building new muscle fibers, and this process has to be halted and changed to an anabolic (muscle building) state as quickly as possible. Exercise depletes your carbohydrate reserves and protein structures at the muscular level, these must be replenished right away, as your body sends the message to “recover”. Recovery happens when the body is fed the right macronutrients at the right time, coupled with the required rest.
In order to feed those starving muscles you want to use the hormone insulin to your advantage as it will hammer home all those valuable nutrients directly to your ripe and ready muscles. Eating sufficient carbohydrates is what triggers this insulin spike, so a post-workout meal full of carbohydrates and fast digesting protein is essential. Insulin will shuttle the protein and carbs to your muscles leading to replenished energy stores and moves the amino acids in protein to the muscles where recovery and muscle growth occurs.
A guideline to follow for healthy nutrition and exercise recovery is 1 gram of carbohydrates and roughly 0.4 gram of protein for every kilogram you weigh, again, use this as a guideline because finding your own way is the best approach. Post workout fat intake should be kept low because the insulin spike we purposely create with carb consumption is going to send most of these nutrients into storage (carbs for glycogen and protein for repair) and we need this to happen quickly. Fat slows absorption, which means the nutrients will take longer to get to their desired destination.
Finally, your first meal after your strenuous workout should be immediately after exercise when the muscles are primed for compensation. It has been proven that a meal within 1 hour (within 45 minutes is best) of exercise is far more beneficial than one consumed 3 hours after a workout. This is why a fast digesting whey protein shake with easily digested carbohydrates is so helpful.
Your post workout nutrition is the most important of the entire day, every day, it is the difference between muscles growing or muscles being broken down. More muscle burns more calories even at rest so more fat is burned daily. Yes, please eat your healthy breakfast every day, but missing your post workout meal can be damaging.