If you exercise regularly, you should also pay attention to your diet in order to optimally support your training. Above all, carbohydrates and proteins play a particularly important role. However, not only the quantity, but also the timing of the supply is important. The time directly after training is particularly favorable, so that depleted energy stores can be quickly replenished and essential proteins for muscle building are supplied. How you can make the most of this time and which foods are suitable for this, you can find out here.
The most important meal of the day
If you thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day, you are sadly mistaken. At least for athletes, the meal after training is even more important. After an intense training session, your body automatically tries to reabsorb consumed energy and nutrients. Therefore, at this time of day, you absorb the food components particularly easily and completely. Your body works like a sponge for nutrients, so to speak.
You can use this effect to get the most out of your training and to further optimize your nutrition. In this context, one often speaks of the "anabolic window", because in the period directly after training a particularly favorable metabolic situation for muscle building prevails, if there are sufficient nutrients are replenished. This effect is still detectable several hours after training, but is strongest directly afterwards. The optimal nutrition after training takes place on different levels.
What must regenerate?
The goal of the perfect meal after training is to restore depleted nutrients as quickly as possible and to positively influence regeneration. This is achieved through the following mechanisms:
Replenishing the water balance
During sports you lose a lot of water through sweat. Water is absolutely essential for your health and physical performance and even small deficits are noticeable. Therefore, you should already drink during your workout, but definitely also afterwards. When drinking, make sure you also take in important electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. These are contained in good mineral water or juice spritzers. Ambitious athletes with training sessions of 60 minutes or more should use special sports drinks that also contain sodium. Drink at least 1.5 liters a day for this purpose, and more in hot weather and during exercise. If you want to know exactly, weigh yourself before and after training and drink the difference after training.
Replenish glycogen stores
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the liver and muscles. During exercise, most of the energy provided comes from glycogen - especially during intense exercise. The filling of glycogen stores is therefore an absolutely critical factor for your next training performance.
If the stores are not optimally filled or even empty, top performances are certainly not possible. Therefore, a carbohydrate-rich diet makes sense for athletes and alone makes a big difference in acute performance. In the long run, harder training sessions also lead to better results.
Especially directly after training, the right carbohydrates (see below) are optimally utilized. The total amount of carbohydrates is very individual and depends on your training goal, body composition, gender and training workload. In general, however, athletes should consume at least 50 percent of total daily calories in the form of carbohydrates. If body weight reduction is the primary goal, a negative energy balance must be achieved. To achieve this, the total amount of carbohydrates can be reduced, although the highest daily amount should still be consumed after training.
Regeneration and building up of the musculature
A supply of proteins after training fulfills two desirable effects. On the one hand, you support the body's own protein synthesis and build muscle mass. The supplied proteins serve as building material and can quickly become limiting for your training success if the supply is insufficient. On the other hand, the proteins serve the muscle regeneration and thus ensure that your muscles are recovered faster and you can train more often and longer.
An optimized protein intake is therefore essential if you want to benefit maximally from your workouts and build muscle. While an amount of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is recommended for non-athletes, studies with athletes have shown an added value of up to 1.6g per kilogram of body weight in terms of muscle building. Higher amounts can be useful for dieting phases.
When and how?
Now, however, there are major differences within these nutrient groups in terms of quality and rate of absorption.
To enable optimal absorption of nutrients directly after training, they should be of high quality, as well as in an easily digestible form. A Wiener schnitzel right after a workout is generally a good source of protein, but it puts a lot of strain on the digestive system and takes many hours to be absorbed at all.
In contrast, a protein shake can be absorbed directly and completely and actually reaches the muscle within a very short time. A few hours after training, your body needs additional nutrients in a more complex form. Therefore, it makes sense to divide post-workout nutrition into different time zones.
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