Nutrition and exercise are undeniably linked and research tells us that what we eat has a profound impact on how are bodies respond to the stress of intense physical activity.
If you have been lifting weights and working out hard but not reaching your fitness goals, it may be time to examine your diet. Assess not only what you eat, but and when you are eating.
James Nicholson, Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Personal Trainer at Evolved Fitness, shared his eating strategy with StrongPath. His goal: To help maximize the benefits of resistance training through nutrition.
“Right after a workout is a critical time to eat specific foods,” said Nicholson. He recommended having a balanced mix of carbs and protein within an hour of completing exercise to help refuel muscles, replenish glycogen levels and support recovery.
“If you eat within an hour or so of completing a routine it will facilitate muscle growth, which helps increase the metabolism and reduce fat,” he said. Nicholson said some carbohydrates are known to facilitate inflammation in the body for many people, except when consumed right after exercise. (Of course, there are people who can process carbohydrates easily and well.)
Research supports the importance of having protein and carbohydrates within a certain time after exercise. According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, “During consistent, prolonged resistance training, post-exercise consumption of varying doses of [carbohydrate and protein] supplements in varying dosages have been shown to stimulate improvements in strength and body composition when compared to control or placebo conditions.”
Another study in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology found “… that muscle glycogen synthesis is twice as rapid if carbohydrate is consumed immediately after exercise as opposed to waiting several hours …”
Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods
Post-workout be sure to choose nutrient dense foods. According to Nicholson, one easy pick is a shake that has protein powder added to it. Also, prepare your food ahead of time and bring it with you to the gym so you can get in a good snack before hitting the showers or right after.
In terms of the amount of protein to eat for muscle recovery, Nicholson follows the 1 gram of protein / 1 kilogram of weight.
Here’s are some post-exercise snack suggestions:
- Berries: Buy fresh or frozen. Frozen berries tend to be more budget-friendly and last longer without sacrificing nutrients. As they’re antioxidants, they reduce inflammation.
- Sweet potatoes.
- Cruciferous, dark and leafy vegetables.
- Whole grains
- Fish: fattier fish like sea bass, halibut and salmon are great sources of Omega-3s
- Greek yogurt (if you can minimize dairy, minimize inflammation)
- Protein powder
- Tempeh or miso
- Nuts (remember, peanuts are a legume)
- Heart of palm
What to Consider
Nicholson said nutrition is an effective way for people to start seeing positive results of their strength training efforts, especially if they’ve stalled. Food is fuel for our bodies and the timing and quality of post-exercise nutrition is critical to maximizing the benefits of any exercise routine.