After exercise or weight lifting it’s all about recovery, and specifically the food for muscle recovery. First you need carbohydrates and fluid to replace the glycogen and water you’ve lost during exercise. You also need protein to help repair any damaged muscle tissue and to help build new muscle in response to exercise. A post-exercise protein shake that also contains the right amount of carbohydrates, as soon as possible after completing your exercise session, can make a huge difference in how your muscles recover and be ready for your next workout.
A classic clinical study conducted at the University of Texas found that consuming a combination protein and carbohydrate shake immediately after exercise and then again 2 hours later actually optimized the anabolic recovery state post-exercise. So muscle energy recovery was faster and more complete with a combination formula than either protein or carbohydrate alone.
Sports Recovery Drinks
People doing regular workouts may benefit from that first shake and not need the second. Serious athletes or people who are training hard for an event and need to maximize muscle recovery can get great results using the findings of this research that shows consuming a shake right after your workout and then again 2 hours later is optimal.
When it comes to recovery, what you eat and when you eat it, after exercise, is almost as important as the workout itself. Why is protein so important post-workout? First of all, protein is a major component of muscle tissue – and proteins which are made from different combinations of 20 amino acids or so actually direct a multitude of bio-chemical reactions within your body as well.
Best For Muscle Recovery
From an athlete’s point of view, there are several proteins that are hugely important. First of all the hormone insulin is a protein and helps you regulate blood glucose levels. We know that insulin’s main job is to drive glucose into cells where it can be used for energy. That’s pretty important for any athlete.
Pepsin is another protein enzyme which helps digest protein foods into amino acids so they can be absorbed into the blood stream. The protein collagen is a component of skin and connective tissues such as tendons and cartilage which are both to key both agility and mobility.
Another important protein is hemoglobin which transports oxygen to muscles and other tissues throughout your body. Two muscle proteins called actin and myosin are important because they’re responsible for muscle contractions.
Muscle Must Come From Your Diet
Protein is essential to build muscle, to help repair your muscle, and generally to keep your muscles healthy. But unfortunately your body doesn’t make protein so it has to come from your diet.
Protein is also a fuel source, though not as effective a source as carbohydrates or even fat. Proteins should not become your go-to fuel source. The most important power source for high intensity or long duration exercise is carbohydrates. Proteins usually only get significantly tapped as a fuel source as you get closer and closer to running out of carbohydrate muscle fuel.
And since protein is stored as muscle, you don’t want to be be burning it or breaking it down into fuel because then you lose muscle which can eventually diminish your strength. So we need carbohydrates and protein after a workout since we will have used up our store of carbohydrates.
There are also some circumstances when you might require extra protein. Endurance athletes, for example distance runners, triathletes and competitive cyclists, can actually burn through their carbohydrate stores pretty quickly and then begin using protein as fuel. So to keep from damaging their body tissues, they need to consume additional protein.
The same can be true of anyone during heavy training especially weightlifters. Serious weightlifters are constantly breaking down muscle tissue only to build it up again so they need a lot of protein. Also those who are just beginning an exercise program or those significantly expanding their current program often need additional protein.
Certain athletes that may be on calorie restriction may have additional protein requirements. Jockeys, wrestlers, gymnasts, and anyone who’s dealing with weigh-ins or weight limits may need larger stores of protein because they can’t really afford the calories that come along with most carbohydrates.
Something very important to point out about protein: it matters that you choose protein sources that are healthy and complete. You need all 9 essential amino acids, and preferably without the fat. Most animal sources such as dairy, meat and eggs are good source of protein but they also come along with higher fat and cholesterol levels.
Food For Muscle Recovery
One great source of protein food for muscle recovery is salmon. It is rich in iron and vitamin B-12 that are important for optimal athletic performance. Salmon also contains omega 3 fatty acids that are very important for heart health and have other healthy benefits.
There’s been a good deal of research into combinations of plant foods for muscle recover because they provide all the essential amino acids. For example, grains paired with legumes, legumes with nuts, or grains with vegetables.
For quick and very nutritious options of getting your plant healthy protein source after a workout, soy and whey protein shakes are available that offer all the essential amino acids with low or no fat and cholesterol and with the added benefit of hydration. Protein shakes are very convenient choices, especially right after exercise and again a couple hours later.
A couple of final tips: you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t have to eat adequately on non-workout days. Treat off days as refueling days and keep your body nourished with well balanced meals every day. Remember what you put in you get back! And last, it is really not a good idea to consume alcohol after a workout, especially during your recovery period. Alcohol interferes with rehydration and the loading of carbohydrates into muscles which can slow recovery and actually increase your risk of injury.
*Scientific information in this article is taken from resources provided by the Shaklee team of doctors and scientists.