If you have just stumbled back in from the gym, fatigued, dripping with sweat, and feeling the life drain out of your muscles; think about your workout. During every set, you must have pushed your muscles to the limit. Your body was busy burning up Carbs for energy, absolutely depleting your creatine levels that help your muscles operate even when the oxygen supply runs low, and tearing up protein to help restore muscles. During that time, your chest was puffed up with honor. And then, you messed up! You left your muscles dry and high after the workout, without replenishing their lost nutrients.
By this seemingly innocuous deed, you set your body off into a starvation cascade. This is a condition where you completely deplete your carbs and break down your muscles, without replenishing them along the way. This has drastic repercussions on the body. While both endurance and strength training exercises are responsible for innumerable aesthetic and health benefits, exercise itself is a major stressor. Although perceived symptoms of this stress are mild, such as enhanced appetite, craving extra sleep, and mild muscle soreness, they may aggravate down the road if this is to be allowed for protracted periods. Through these symptoms, your body is trying to tell you that exercise has caused damage to the exhausted muscles and depleted their fuel resources.
Another reason to take post-exercise nutrition seriously, relates to a compound known as “glycogen”. Glycogen is an energy source constructed from carbohydrates, which is primarily stored in the muscles and liver. Especially if you lift weight often, it is imperative to pump your muscles full of glycogen. Not only does it boost performance, studies have proven that workout-induced muscle degeneration is accelerated when the muscle glycogen levels are low. Any anaerobic exercise leads to marked reduction in glycogen stores, and in this depleted state, your body is more apt to replenish glycogen reserves in the muscles than before. This translates to your muscles “super-compensating” with glycogen, meaning that they now they can store more than they had before the state.
After you have gone through a sweat breaking session, here are the three nutrients your body craves most:
- Creatine: Creatine boosts the power of muscle cells by acting like a temporary fuel source in times when the oxygen supply runs low. In addition, ingesting creatine encourages greater cellular hydration. These factors contribute to an overall muscle growth and greater protein synthesis.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an essential and highly useful energy source for all activities. After the workout, this energy source has to be replenished.
- Protein: This nutrient is single handedly responsible for muscle growth and development. Protein is constructed from amino acids, which help in rebuilding muscles while you recover from exercise. At least 50 g of quality protein is needed to repair and rebuild muscles. Resistance training, in particular, can cause microscopic trauma in your muscles, and loading up on protein after exercise can aid you body adapt to training and repairing muscles. A research published in the October 2006 issue of the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism”, ingesting whey protein post workout significantly enhance strength gains.
- Water: While not a nutrient, your body is in dire need of water to prevent dehydration and flush the toxins out of your cells after an exercise session. Simply put, water helps to purify your system.