I just got a great question from one of the youth workers competing in the “Be a bigger loser than Marko” competition that Youth Specialties is doing, and I thought I would blog about it! Basically, they wanted to know what they should be eating before and after workouts, which is an important question.
It is actually important to eat something after a workout, preferably within half an hour or so – especially after a vigorous workout! When you are exercising, you are depleting your glycogen stores – fancy name for your muscles’ batteries. Glycogen is your primary short term energy stores – it’s what powers your muscles. After a workout your body needs to restore your glycogen stores – the faster this happens, the less likely your body is to cannibalize itself in it’s search for fuel. So eating something easy to digest that is high in protein right after a workout is a great way of recharging your muscles. It also has the added benefit of the food going directly to your muscles, rather than being converted to fat stores or anything like that. I happen to be partial to yogurt smoothies; high in protein and easy to digest healthy carbohydrates. Others use protein shakes, fruit, or even a protein smoothie. The point is, it’s good for your body. So if you’re scheduling your eating (which is important for managing your appetite), try to arrange it so that one of your snacks is falling after your workout.
Now, here’s an added nugget of calorie burning tricks. For those who don’t get sick when they exercise on a full stomach, exercising right after a meal can be a great way to get some added calorie burn. Here’s why: your stomach/body actually has to burn calories to digest food. Typically, you can assume that the number of calories being burned is about 10% of the number you are eating; in other words, if you eat a 400 calorie meal, your body will burn 40 calories just digesting it. Now, when you are exercising, your circulation is ramped up to get blood to all your muscles, etc. What this means is that there is not as much available in the digestion process which means your stomach has to work harder to digest the same amount of food. It actually burns about 50% of the calories consumed; in other words, your digestive track will burn 200 calories digesting that 400 calorie meal. It’s a great trick to increase the number of calories your body is burning in a day – if you can get away with it. Some people do get queasy or cramp up if they exercise vigorously after eating a meal. For me, I always try to work out on a full stomach!