You’ve done everything you were supposed to do. You maintained good form during your deadlifts. You kept your back straight during your power squats. You even had a really great warm up to start your session. But you could be undermining all of the things you’ve done right if you don’t give your body the chance to recover properly.
While strong muscles may be the result of your workout, those muscles aren’t made at the gym. They’re actually made after your workout from a process called catabolism. When you lift weights and stretch your muscles, you create tiny tears in the fibers themselves. During recovery, your muscles strengthen and heal themselves with the nutrients that you put in your body before and after a workout.
Most people understand the importance of eating the right foods and taking in the right nutrients after a workout to help the recovery process along. But it also matters what you eat beforehand. Think of it as a pre-emptive measure to begin your tissue-rebuilding process. As a pre-workout meal, you need good, lean protein and complex carbohydrates to keep you going. The protein acts as future building material for your muscles while the carbs fuel you during your workout and increase your endurance. *
It’s also important to replenish your body after a workout with quick-acting carbohydrates and more lean protein. Unlike like the proteins and carbs you ate before your workout, these help your body in completely different ways.
After you work out, your energy, glycogen levels and insulin levels can be low. Eating or drinking fast-acting carbs like fruits and milk can help get those levels up and give you a boost of energy.
Lastly, you also need to eat protein to rebuild your muscle and repair the micro-tears made from your workout. Some studies have shown that depending on your body weight, 20-40 grams of protein is the ideal amount to consume post-workout to get the recovery process started.
One of the fastest ways to consume and absorb protein is through protein shakes and supplements. These tend to be easily digested and allow your body to process the protein more quickly. There’s also no wait or cook time, meaning you can easily intake what you need while on the go. Most protein shakes and supplements come in the form of whey protein, which is derived from lactose. If you’re sensitive to dairy or vegan, try a protein mixture made from hemp seeds instead.
Remember that besides working out, your muscles need your help to get stronger. The best way you can do this is with diet and by making sure that your body has all the macronutrients it needs before and after a good workout.
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