You take the time to work out, you’ve found some exercise that you love, you eat pretty well – so why don’t you seem to be reaping the rewards of your hard work? While putting in the time for exercising is certainly important, what you do when you’ve changed out of your gym clothes is just as crucial to achieving your goals.
We caught up with Kate Leiper, trainer at Sweat It to find out how to make sure all time you put in doesn’t go to waste and you don’t ‘ruin’ your workout.
While you might sip away during your workout that’s not enough for your body to get back to hydrated afterwards – which is crucial for the development which happens after you work out.
“For all of your bodily functions, including muscle repair, growth, protein synthesis, to work efficiently you need to replenish your water supply,” explains Kate. Also remember classes like yoga, Pilates and barre, where you are likely to drink less, still leave you dehydrated. For example when you do yoga, toxins could have been released, so you need to drink water to flush out your system. But forget expensive rehydration drinks, plain water is best for bringing your fluid levels back again.
Often we steer clear of carbs in order to see results from a gym programme. But that shouldn’t be the case at all and could be causing you problems.
“In my opinion, the most important thing to eat post-workout, is carbohydrate!” says Kate. “All exercise uses carbs for energy and this makes our muscles hungry. After a muscle-carb depletion is created during the workout they must be fed. Otherwise, that pump you feel from smashing the workout, will disappear because your muscles do not have the right resources to grow and repair.”
Choose unrefined wholegrain carbs like wholemeal, granary toast or brown rice so you get the slow release benefits.
While you need some carbs you also need some protein to build muscle and help you repair post exercise, but that doesn’t mean you need to fill your backpack with dubious protein shakes and bars, just 15-30g of protein in your next meals will be enough. That’s 2-5 eggs, 3-6oz tempeh, 2-4oz chicken breast or beef.
“It is essential you consume adequate amounts of protein. It’s not just hype, it is super important for muscle growth and repair,” explains Kate. “There’s no denying it – science tells us so.”
We’ve just told you carbs and protein are needed post -work out, but that doesn’t mean you need to walk out of the gym eating a chicken sandwich!
The processes in your body take a little time to settle down after a work-out so you are best off concentrating on rehydration immediately afterwards and leaving a little longer before eating.
“After a workout our body is obviously in a ‘stressed state’. Digesting food in this state can be more difficult for the body as it is focusing its energy on vital organs, homeostasis and lots more. Not being able to digest things as easily means your body will not be able to make the most of the fuel you’re feeding it. So wait, if you can, until you’ve showered, chilled out, drank some water, chilled out some more.. then sit down to eat and enjoy your carb and protein banquet!” Kate advises.
This is a tricky one as along with cutting our carbs of late we have been told it’s all systems go on fats and they are not as bad for us as we have been previously told.
But if you are trying to achieve your exercise goals they can be problematic.
“Fats are digested slowly, which is why they make you feel fuller for longer, but this also means they basically get in the way of other functions, for example, the absorption of protein and carbs. As I’ve said, post workout we want maximum absorption of proteins and carbs so that our muscles get what they need. So, don’t be letting those fats get in the way.”
Yes it’s boring and can seem a waste of time but stretching is actually going to speed up the results you see from your work out – now there’s a reason to bother with it!
“This speeds up your post workout chill,” says Kate. Which means your body can move from a stressed to a resting state sooner and start repairing and growing.
“You’re forced to stop, to breathe and do something calming. Tense muscles are not only an effect of stress but can also be a cause of it too, so we want to release that tension.”
Stretching also enhances blood flow allowing your muscles access to the oxygen and nutrients they need, it gets rid of lactic acid and lengthens muscles that have been shortened during the workout. “This will decrease the possibility of injury and muscle soreness – both of which could negatively affect your fitness regime,” and mean you need to take time out to recover rather than carry on concentrating on the gains.