But not just anything. That is to say, when you’re done ripping around the track and burning calories, don’t just reach for a Snickers bar. Studies show that ingesting even a small amount of protein right after finishing a workout (within 10-15 minutes) can deliver a whole host of benefits; even if you are planning on eating a larger, more substantial meal once you get home, you should try to nosh on something before you jump in the car.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, test subjects who ate even 1-2 grams of leucine (think whey protein, which is generally a better source for post-workout purposes) showed bigger muscle gains and lost more fat than subjects who ate nothing at all. Oddly enough, you can actually lose muscle mass if you eat nothing after your workouts, as opposed to taking in something small in the form of a supplement or tiny snack.
See, high-intensity exercise (jamming? hel-LO…) is considered a form of stress, and stress releases cortisol into your bloodstream. And cortisol, unfortunately, triggers muscle breakdown. No bueno. BUT, good news is that even small amounts of protein can trigger new protein synthesis and muscle recovery. There are some other advantages as well. Protein supplements after exercise can help accelerate the loss of visceral fat (the dangerous stuff), which, aside from making that tight-fitting jersey look like hell, accumulates around your organs and ups your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The other cool side-effect of eating a small snack post-workout is that you will maintain a higher resting metabolic rate, which essentially means that you continue to burn off calories while you’re doing nothing. Or at least thinking about something else besides sweating your ass off. Sweet.
Eating a little bit right after exercise also tends to take the edge off your hunger, regulating your blood sugar a little and giving your body time to decide just how hungry it is…before you march into the nearest convenience store and drop $20 on junk food to satisfy whatever cravings you think you have.
So how can you take advantage of all this awesomeness? Well, think small-ish…between 100-150 calories, especially if you are planning on eating something more substantial in the next 30-45 minutes. So, a hard-boiled egg, a few handfuls of peanuts, cashews, etc, or maybe a little Greek yogurt (although you may not want to keep that in your skate bag); Oikos offers smaller-sized options than their regular yogurt servings, which could be a good choice. I personally like a few handfuls of trail mix and a couple sticks of part-skim mozzarella string cheese; I usually try to stay away from beef-jerky unless it is homemade, because of the large amounts of preservatives that are contained in store-bought jerky.
There is also a wide variety of protein recovery drinks out there, but I’m going to refrain from talking about those here, since I’d like to give them their own post.
So, it might take a little pre-planning…but having something on hand to grab out of your skate bag or backpack while you’re taking off your gear or discussing the finer points of your scrimmage might help to keep you out of the potato chip trough, and give you a little more energy for the next go-round.
Go get better, faster, stronger!