Everyone exercises with a goal in mind, be it dropping a few pounds or bulking up. However, people often forget one of the most important parts of a successful fitness regimen: the post-workout meal.
The hour after a workout—often referred to as “the golden hour”—is just as important as the time you spend in the gym. While training in the gym is all about stimulating your muscles, how you eat afterwards will dictate your body’s ability to restore those muscles efficiently. Think about it this way: you can have the fastest and most expensive car in the world, but you will never reach your destination without the proper fuel.
During the golden hour, your muscle cells are extremely sensitive to nutrient intake. Therefore, what you eat post-workout will likely contribute to building your muscles and not your fat cells. This is not an excuse to overeat or consume food lacking in nutritional value. Eating the proper food in the golden hour will do you wonders.
What are the right kinds of food to eat after intense exercise? Often, people end their workout with a quick protein shake and call it a day. Although not wrong, this is not the most ideal way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. A mixture of fast-digesting carbohydrates, protein and so-called “good” fats is the key to a healthy recovery from a workout.
Some examples of fast digesting carbohydrates are bananas, whole wheat bread and chocolate milk. Carbohydrates allow the body to release insulin, an anabolic hormone that aids in building muscle. Protein is also an important factor in the muscle-building process— good sources of this nutrient include chicken, eggs, Greek yogurt, turkey, milk and whey. Finally, good fats fight inflammation and help build new muscle cells. You will find healthy fats in peanut butter, fish, hemp seeds and flax seeds.
If you are unable to get home within an hour to have your post workout meal, simply pack it with you. Make a smoothie with milk, yogurt, banana, whey protein and flaxseed. If a smoothie seems too complicated, just mix a scoop of whey protein with a cup of Greek yogurt and top it off with some bananas and a tablespoon of flaxseed.
Of course, training hard and getting eight hours of sleep a night are important factors for any active person to consider. At the same time, what you put into your body during the golden hour can be equally significant. If you miss the golden hour, try to eat as soon as possible following strenuous exercise. But whatever you do, do not discount the benefits of a proper post-workout diet.