What Should You Eat After Exercise?

Posted on February 19th, 2010 by Dr. Mercola  |  25 Comments »

What you eat before and after you exercise can influence the positive benefits of your workout on your body. You can exercise on an empty stomach but it’s not advisable to skip meals. It’s better to eat a healthy meal a couple of hours before you hit the gym or start any physical activities. How long you wait depends on the size and content of the meal and the type and intensity of activities/workouts you will engage in.

On the other hand, a new study shows that exercise enhances your insulin sensitivity, particularly when you eat low carbohydrate meals after your exercise session or workout, and that consuming less carbs after exercising is better than eating a low-calorie meal.

You don’t need to starve yourself after sweating it out because this may actually slow down your metabolism. Natural and alternative health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola believes that what you eat after you work out is more important than what you have before.

After exercising, your muscles have been pushed to the limit and your body is low in nitrogen, therefore, you’ll need complex carbohydrates from vegetables and amino acids from high quality animal protein like organic free-range chicken and eggs and grass-fed beef, Dr. Mercola advises. Combining a quality carb and protein source in every meal is important for whatever type of exercise and even if it’s a non-workout day.

Mercola recently joined forces with renowned fitness trainer and life coach Darin Steen to help you get more expert advice on how to get healthy, particulary on how you can get the most out of your workouts. Here are Darin’s recommendations on what you should eat after your workout:

•    Aerobic/Cardio – After engaging in a fat loss-centered cardiovascular workout, take a break for about 45-60 minutes before eating a whole food, high-quality source of protein and vegetable-type carbohydrate. An example would be chicken and spinach salad. You don’t need to wait an hour after the session because you’ll want to ride the fat-burning wave and avoid starvation mode.

•    Resistance – A post muscle-building resistance workout meal needs to be absorbed rapidly because you only have a one-hour window to open the gates for amino acids, glycogen and other anabolic nutrients to enter and help repair your muscles. You’ll want to eat this meal 15-30 minutes after an intense weight training session. Failure to do so may diminish the chances of allowing your muscles to recover properly to make them bigger and stronger. Darin’s recommended meal is whey protein and a higher glycemic, fast released, starchy carbohydrate such as a banana.

Go for Real, Whole Food

Many gym rats load up on energy bars and energy drinks, thinking they’re as good as advertised by food manufacturers and contain herbs, minerals, proteins, vitamins and other nutrients.

But let’s face it: the two active ingredients in these products are caffeine and sugar.

Many energy bars and drinks also contain additives, artificial flavors and sweeteners, toxins and useless calories.

Besides, you don’t need to chug a sports drink unless you are severely dehydrated and are losing more than a quart of water in sweat in 30-45 minutes.

The ticket to optimal performance is in eating whole, biodynamic and organic foods. So next time you need a quick snack after a workout, forget about that energy bar and go for these beneficial sources of carbs and protein:

•    any vegetable (with the exception of carrots and beets, which are high in sugar), particularly dark, green and leafy varieties like spinach, kale or Swiss chard
•    fruits that are low in fructose like apricots, cantaloupe, lemons, limes, passion fruit, plums and raspberries
•    lean, grass-fed red meat
•    organic free range chicken and eggs
•    raw nuts and seeds
•    whey protein

You are what you eat and what you are is influenced by how much you exercise so eat and exercise right.

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    My 19 year old son is trying to build muscle and is exercising with me at the gym. He and I are also on a healthy diet emphasizing lean meats and lots of vegetables (low carb- no breads, potatoes, etc). The issue is that he has a tough time eating enough calories. Healthy foods are not as calories dense as junk food and its difficult for him to get the calories he needs. Any suggestions? I’m buying him some of Dr. Mercola’s Protein powder. Thanks

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