Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Eat this/Not that... after a workout

A little bit of personal background for my readers: I was born to teenage parents. I didn't have any cousins at all until I turned 11. Most of my cousins are quite a bit younger than I am. So, I have more of an uncle-niece/nephew relationship with them. One such case is my 16 year old cousin Guy, who's still under a grand delusion that he can, someday soon, kick my ass in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He's big into the MMA and boxing and like everyone else who takes up either (or both), he's realizing the importance of strength training and conditioning.

Keep Dreaming, punk!

I have a sneaking suspicion that he (and a couple of his friends who train with him) might be hitting this site more regularly. He was curious about what he could eat to help recover from his workouts, which are leaving him feeling a bit worn-down. Hey, even adding a little muscle would be a nice bonus! He got in touch with me and I realized that it would be a very good topic for blog entry.

Post-workout, there are two things that the body needs, and pretty damn quick: protein and some high glycemic carbs. A hard session of training is going to leave the body with a lot of "torn down" muscles and not much glycogen (sugar that the muscles use to move) left. The protein part is easy to understand: that's what you make muscle out of. The high glycemic carbs need an explanation (this is very simplified, BTW).

Glucose is what you really want here. Glucose is the fastest-absorbing, insuling-spiking sugar. After a workout, the muscles love a good insulin spike! Glycemic index (GI)is the measure of how fast a carb will trigger the release of insulin.

So, what's high on the GI that we can take to trigger that insulin release? Well, read enough muscle-comic magazines and they'll tell you things like white bread, white rice, oreo cookies and even chocolate milk. Highly processed foods drive up insulin levels fast, sure but they're still junk food. There are better ways to do this.
Although, I have experimented with chocolate milk and the results can be
okay, with a few conditions. You really have to be jonesing for some sugar
by the time you're done your workout to make the most of Chocolate
milk. Second, you need to be really fussy about which
chocolate milk you use. Some brands, no matter how much your brain and
muscles are screaming, crying and begging for sugar, they simply have too
much. Moral here: be as careful as you are picky!
My two favorite candidates are ripe bananas and dates. The bananas have to be ripe, or even over-ripe. Bananas have a lot of starch that convert to sugar as they ripen. So, a barely ripe banana comes in around the mid-40s, which is kind of low. Let them get some brown on them and they sky-rocket up into the mid-to-high 70's, which is pretty high. Dates are REALLY HIGH on the GI, usually coming in the high-90's. Just two or three will do the trick here. Another major plus that I like about both of these is that they're both very high in potassium. Since you've probably sweat like a bulldog in the desert, some electrolytes could be very, very helpful to avoid muscle cramps!

So, we get done the workout, threw down either a mushy banana or 2-3 dates. Now, for the protein part. Most readers will know that I'm not a huge fan of any supplements, including protein powders. I don't consider whey a food. It's a food extract that comes from milk. So, why not just drink the damn milk? It's cheaper and it tastes a whole lot better! Besides, do you really know what's in your protein supplement? Do a quick search! A lot of these snot-mixers have been caught with conaminants from heavy metals to some "fairy dusting" of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED's).

There's always cattle blood too! This Surma kid is on his way to being a bad-ass stick fighter! Hey, Jack Lalanne drank a lot of this in his earlier years...
How much of either to consume after a workout varies. If weight gain is the goal, drink and eat more. After a workout during my bulking days, I would drink a quart of milk and eat two bananas. If simple muscle recovery is in the order, consume less.
There are a few other things that can help out for muscle pains. Earlier I mentioned potassium consumption to avoid muscle cramps. Coconut water is gaining popularity as a natural, low sugar-calorie sports drink, partly because it's loaded with potassium. It's expensive but you don't need to drink much to get a lot of electrolyte out of it. 8 ounces will do. Another fruit that's good to consume after a workout, if they're available, is cherries. Studies have found that they have a natural muscle-relaxing chemical in them, which makes them a good dessert before bedtime.
Of course, this is all second to making sure that you don't push it too hard during the workout and that you're getting enough sleep! These two are paramount to making strong, happy and healthy muscles.


TR said...

One solution that I once read for sore muscles is to take contrast showers or just cold showers right after. What do you think?

Cameron said...

I've come to the point where I don't even really care what I eat post workout- it just has to have a lot of protein.
I eat only 3 times a day and my PWO meal is generally the largest. As long as I'm getting a steady stream of protein for 2-4 hours PWO, I'm good.
Steak, eggs, pasta with meat, whey shakes, hamburgers, meatloaf, etc all provide a lot of protein over a long period of time. Does it really matter that much if the protein enters your body within one hour or two?
Probably not.
As long as it's real food.
Good post. Keep them coming.

Justin_PS said...

I haven't tried contrast shower. I work with water for a living. My job is one, big contrast shower!

Cameron, I've skipped post-workout stuff if a meal is close enough to the workout. I'm talking workout, shower, FOOD! When I'm done working out, I'M HUNGRY! After a workout, IMO, the sugar's more important to get into the body first rather than the protein.

Oh, and Steak and eggs ROCKS! This is the greatest muscle meal ever, IMO. Actually, It's probably just the best meal EVER, PERIOD!

Frank said...

Great post! Now that we have the post workout, I was wondering what foods you eat before a workout? I have read that one should eat foods with a low GI before working out.
Under FAQ: How relevant is the GI for athletes?

Your thoughts??

Justin_PS said...

Hi Frank,

I'm not a pro athlete, so I can't comment with credibility on the importance of GI for them. Post workout is the only time I really pay attention to GI at all.

I'm like the old, old school of strength training diet: I worship the cow for all of the wonderful things it gives us. I like milk before a workout along with some sort of nuts and maybe a banana- when I think to eat a pre-workout meal.

Frank said...

I was just wondering what you eat before your workouts. I thought that maybe the GI in food was important to you in what you chose to eat before working out since it is important to you in the post workout. Thank you for your response. Keep the good posts coming!