You’ve probably heard about the importance of having a recovery snack after a hard workout. But a discussion with Dr. John Ivy on this topic added urgency to the importance of this post-workout discipline.
Ivy is a noted sports nutrition expert and kinesiologist at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the book, Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition.
Here’s the basic idea: If, for example, you go bust your butt in a hard workout and then screw around for an hour or two before you take in an appropriate snack (a pint of Guinness would not qualify) then you’ve wasted a key opportunity to help your body churn all that work toward the improvement you did the workout to obtain.
“I believe the two most important meals of the day for the athlete are, one, breakfast, and two, the post-workout meal” Ivy explains that right after a workout your body has ignited to key processes that you want to take advantage of by feeding it a snack/meal of carbs and protein. One of these a signal to synthesize protein and rebuild torn down muscles and another he called “mitochondrial biogenesis,” building more mitochondria essentially, the engines in the cells that an endurance athlete wants as many as possible.
Ivy told me that a four-week study split untrained subjects into three groups, with one group consuming no calories of any sort in the first hour after a workout, the second group consuming carbs only in the hour after the workout, and the third group consuming the same number of calories as the second group but in the form of a carb-protein snack.
The carb-protein group soared against the other groups in terms of burning body fat off and increasing lean muscle mass, plus generated two times the gains in V02max development–the classic marker of cardiovascular function coveted by an endurance athlete. Ivy follows this with the observation that those who refrain from consuming food after a workout are making an error because both of these processes–protein synthesis and mitochondrial biogenesis–require power to complete. “And you’ll be doing that by burning fat,” he says. “If you wait two hours to eat after a workout you’re missing out on this.”
He says you won’t have these two systems turned on and you won’t be burning fat to power them. The loss is collective: You won’t be optimally rebuilding tissue or adapting to the training by revving up your mitochondria count and you will have lost out on a stretch of time when you could be burning unwanted fat for pure energy.
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