You burn about 300-500 calories an hour backpacking, 400-600 skiing, and 450-1,000 running (according to Livestrong’s fitness & exercise directory), depending on weight and intensity. So in order to increase your fitness potential, replacing energy lost after exercise is key.
While most understand pre-workout nutrition, many who participate in moderate to strenuous exercise tend to refrain from refueling until hunger strikes. This, however, is damaging to your body’s recovery process. Here’s why:
Phot via Runner’s World
During exercise, your body depletes your store of a carbohydrate called Glycogen found in your muscles and liver. After exercise, your body will begin to restore glycogen levels, but without consuming carbs, your body will enter a catabolic state and break down the protein in your muscle tissue instead. Some might think your body will break down fat after a workout; however, your body will only turn to your fat stores when protein reserves are low.
So, in order to protect your muscles and help your body recover from used energy, most experts generally agree that it’s best to eat within 45 minutes of completing your workout. Martica Heaner at MSN Health and Fitness calls the 45 minute period the ‘metabolic window’ when ‘enzymes that replenish muscle carbs are at their highest levels,’ and ‘insulin, which rebuild protein stores, is at peak levels.’ Calories consumed during this window will go to rebuilding rather than fat storage.
Within the 45 minute window, look to ingest both carbs and lean proteins, but stay away from fat as it will slow digestion of the needed proteins and carbs. One quick option for recovery is skim milk. Milk, or even low-fat chocolate milk, will replenish glycogen stores with its rich mix of carbohydrates and help repair muscles with protein. Plus, your body can digest it quickly giving you nutrients faster.
Milk also provides a great alternative to eating if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to look at food after strenuous activity. Whey protein is another option for those food adverse when recovering and is easy for your body to break down as well.
- Trail mix
- Beef jerky with crackers
- Peanut butter on bread, an English muffin or apple
- Nutrition bars
- Bagel with cream cheese and jelly
- Dried fruit
- cheese and crackers or hummus and crackers
- Sports drinks