The Worst Nutrition Habit After Your Workout?
by Joan Kent, PhD
I've written articles on re-fueling after workouts and offered specific guidelines for best practice. Current nutrition trends being what they are, however, it seems important to cover one particular habit that may be detrimental in terms of post-workout fueling.
This worst nutrition habit is arguably avoiding carbs after exercise — when the body may actually need them most. Here are 3 reasons not to avoid carbs.
• Best Glycogen Replacement
Carbs in the form of starches — not sugar or fruit — replace glycogen most effectively. We need to replace glycogen so we can train well in an ongoing program. This is true for recreational fitness enthusiasts, as well as for elite athletes. The starches are best combined with protein in a ratio of 3:1.
Difficulties with glycogen replacement become even more exaggerated if you also avoid carbs before exercise. If you work out regularly — especially if you work hard — you need carbs before and after your workout.
• Keeping Muscles Responsive to Insulin
Avoiding starch in the key 30 minutes after a workout can make the muscles temporarily insulin resistant. That will make it harder to replace glycogen, even if you eat perfectly the rest of the day. So be fanatical about hitting that 30-minute window, and include starch and protein, no fat.
• Turning Off Cortisol to Keep Muscle
Workouts trigger cortisol release. We need to inhibit cortisol to stop muscle breakdown following training sessions. Avoiding carbs will prevent us from stopping the cortisol.
A combination of starch and protein (in the above-mentioned 3-to-1 ratio) is optimally effective in stopping cortisol.
Interestingly, many athletes concerned about maintaining or increasing muscle mass avoid starches after training. Many prefer to eat protein only.
This misses a significant point: If you want to maintain or increase muscle mass, it's important to prevent that muscle from being torn down (catabolized) after the training session. That's what cortisol will do, and that's why we need to stop it. With post-training starch.
Bottom line, the idea is to eat today so you can train well tomorrow.
Carbs (starch) plus protein in a 3-to-1 ratio right after training will help you do that. Skipping carbs will not.
If you'd like more help with training nutrition — or any health issues — I'd love to help you. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free Empowered Eating consult. Discover how easy it is to make small changes that yield big results.
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.