Many people are aware that it’s important to eat and drink before exercising, but it is not as commonly known that replenishing your body with nutrients soon after exercising helps muscles and tissues recover from an intense workout. Eating the right foods after exercise may also help your immune system.
Intense exercise creates an anabolic (tissue-building) environment in the body by stimulating the release of growth hormone and testosterone. For several hours after exercise these hormones remain at a heightened state, priming your body for tissue growth and repair. From 30 minutes to two hours after exercise, muscles and tissues must rapidly replace nutrients depleted by the workout. To take maximum advantage of your body’s post-workout state, one should have a snack or fortified meal replacement beverage or bar in the first 30 minutes after finishing your workout. Within the first two hours after the workout, one needs to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal rich in protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals.
Your body building diet should comprise of:
Protein: Our digestive system breaks protein down into amino acids, which enhance tissue growth and repair to repair whatever damage, occurred to body tissues during exercise. Protein also helps build muscle after a workout. Good sources of proteins include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, soy products, and energy bars and shakes. One needs to eat about 0.5 gm of protein per kilogram of body weight, after a workout. The daily protein requirement for an individual involved in intense body building workouts is about 1.8 – 2.0 gm per kilogram of body weight.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates stimulate the secretion of the hormone insulin. Insulin transforms carbohydrates into glycogen, which the body stores and converts back to carbohydrates during exercise. Studies show that consumption of carbohydrates within two hours after a workout enhances the replenishment of muscle glycogen. This means, the more muscle glycogen that you replace by consuming carbohydrates, the more energy you’ll have for your next workout. Consume about 1-1.5 gm per kilogram of body weight after a workout.
Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid found in dairy products, whey protein, and supplements. Glutamine increases cell hydration and volume, and promotes protein synthesis. Glutamine also serves as the primary fuel for the white blood cells of the immune system.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that repairs and maintains collagen tissue and enhances immune function. Since intense exercise may suppress immune function, consume 500 milligrams of vitamin C after you exercise. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, fresh berries, green leafy vegetables, and vitamin supplements.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is commonly found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, raw wheat germ, and supplements. Vitamin E may relieve some of the tissue damage responsible for delayed-onset muscle soreness caused by heavy training. Take in 100 to 400 milligrams of vitamin E per day during training to help prevent or reduce muscle soreness.
Zinc: Zinc is found in dark meats, oysters, mushrooms, whole grains, brewer’s yeast and supplements, zinc serves as an important constituent of hundreds of enzymes involved in digestion and immune function. The drops in zinc levels during intense exercise reduce your body’s immunities. Since levels are down for several hours after exercise, you should take in up to 25 milligrams during recovery.
Water: Water is the most important nutrient to replace after exercise is water. During exercise, one loses about 0.5 to 1.4 kilograms of fluid from sweat per hour. Sweating easily leads to a loss of more than 2 percent of body weight in fluids. Dehydration can diminish both mental and physical capacity, and can also slow protein synthesis, reducing the recovery and growth of muscle tissue. One needs to drink a minimum of 10 cups of water per day when you exercise, but ensure you maintain the right electrolyte balance in your body.