From shoving down the protein shakes to laying off the carbs, these the most common eating mistakes you’re probably making post-workout.
Chances are you’ve scooped and shaken up a protein drink right after working out. Whilst protein shakes (or bars) are a convenient refuelling option to boost tired muscle, overdosing on them may be doing more harm than good. Recent research from the University of Sydney assessed the impact of excessive consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’S) and results showed that high levels of BCAAs in the blood can disrupt sleep, negatively impact an individual's temperament, cause weight gain and lead to a shortened lifespan. Granted the study was conducted on mice, excess consumption in humans have also proved hidden dangers.
The most important message is that more protein doesn't equal better and shakes should never replace real foods. It’s best to vary your sources of protein, including both animal and plant-based varieties to ensure you’re getting the best amino acid balance.
If you’re into high-intensity training, then the last thing you should do is shy away from the carbs. The right type of carbs help to replenish muscle glycogen and also stimulate the hormone insulin which functions to help the muscles take in the protein (amino acids) to repair muscle damage and build new muscle. The optimal post-workout meal or snack include equal parts protein and quality carbs.
Related: The Best Pre And Post Workout Snacks
We’ve all heard about the “30-minute window of opportunity” – a theory based on the idea that the body is primed to ‘re-feed’ (i.e. absorb nutrients) during a certain timeframe post-exercise to replenish energy reserves (glycogen), repair damaged muscle tissue and improve recovery. However, how long this ‘window’ remains open post-workout is debatable and depends on the type of activity you do. For example, research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that nutrient timing may only be relevant if you are training several times a day, as opposed to average gym-goer who works out only once a day - in which case there is plenty of time to replenish glycogen (carbs) and protein over the course of day.
There is no need to gulp down a shake straight away, or wait hours to eat post workout. What matters more is making sure you eat at regular intervals to keep blood-sugar levels steady to ward off crazy fatigue and hunger.
While it’s true that exercise burns calories, improves fitness and staves off chronic disease, it also has another effect: it can stimulate hunger and/or serve as a reward, causing you to overeat. So, if a grande vanilla latte with breakfast, a banana bread to overcome the 3pm slump and three glasses (or more) of wine with dinner is a regular ritual, you may be overestimating how many calories you torched…..and most likely gain it all back and more if you fall into this trap.
If you’re an elite athlete or training longer than 90-minutes a day, you might benefit from rehydrating with a sports drink, which has a mix of carbs and electrolytes (lost through sweat) a sport drink can be a optimal way to replenish energy reserves and rehydrate. But otherwise, regular H2O is the best way to rehydrate (without additional calories). The colour of your urine is the perfect indicator of your hydration status. If it’s a light colour, your fluid level is fine.