Right after your workout is a critical time for repairing damaged muscle fibers and quickly replenishing muscle glycogen, the stored form of carbs in the body that is used as fuel during workouts. Research indicates that certain foods are more effective than others in stimulating muscle growth and enhancing recovery after workouts. Even if you are trying to lose weight, you want to preserve muscle; otherwise you lower your metabolic rate of calorie burning.
Consuming carbs after workouts serves two main functions. First, it replenishes depleted muscle glycogen, which not only refuels you for your next workout, but also creates a muscle building environment inside muscle cells. Second, it releases insulin, a hormone that stops muscle breakdown, which, when combined with protein starts the muscle building process. Lead author Luc Loon from Maastricht University in the Netherlands discovered that 0.8 grams of carbs per pound of body weight after workouts maximizes post exercise muscle glycogen synthesis, according to research published in the July 2000 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Consume fast-digesting carbs, such as bread, rice, fruit, or coconut water to quickly refill muscle glycogen post workout.
After exercise, protein synthesis decreases while muscle breakdown increases, according to sports nutrition expert John Berardi. This not only increases muscle loss but also impairs recovery. Adding protein to your post-workout meal can reverse this process, increasing protein synthesis and halting muscle breakdown. Research shows that ingesting 0.2 to 0.4 g of protein per kilogram of body weight post workout is effective for muscle growth and recovery. Ingesting whey protein post exercise has positive effects on muscle growth. Milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and whey protein powder are all excellent choices.
Exercise often causes dehydration, which can damper muscle recovery. According to research reported in the 1996 issue of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," athletes should drink about 17 oz. of fluid every two hours during and after exercise until they are adequately hydrated.
Rehydration after exercise is essential for muscle gain, since dehydration slows down the muscle growth process and impedes muscle recovery.
Eating cherries post workout might reduce muscle damage and pain associated with exercise. This in turn can enhance muscle recovery and allow your muscles to grow back bigger and stronger than before. In a study published in the June 2006 issue of the "British Journal of Sports Medicine," researchers discovered that subjects drinking cherry juice before and after exercise-induced muscle damage exercises experienced less muscle damage compared to those receiving a placebo.
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