Dara Duff-Bergeron: Sweaty Mummy


Protein or Carbs After a Workout?

Separating Fact From Fiction

This might sound a little funny coming from someone who puts fitness information out into the world but there is just too much freaking fitness information out in the world. My clients are constantly baffled by the differing opinions and conflicting studies they hear about, usually in the form of a 50-word blurb that is, at best, watered down and sometimes even misleading.

There is a good rule of thumb that for every study, another study exists finding the exact opposite results. Don’t get too hopped up on one particular study. Use your common sense and, if possible, get the advice of someone who knows that subject area.

Another bit of advice regarding studies... Don’t assume that fitness and nutrition information from the lives of professional athletes and Olympians should be distilled into an action plan for the average 9-to-5 desk jockey or stay-at-home Yummy Mummy.

Prime example: Do you need protein or carbohydrate after your workout?  I talk about this topic several times per week and the answer is not as straight-up as some might have you believe.

If you are training for a specific event or sport, nutrition is a serious matter; you must ensure you get enough protein and carbohydrates following a training session to perform properly at your next session and continue along your training plan. Generally, an athlete (This could be a competitive or amateur athlete – if you’re trying to qualify for the 2014 Olympics, you are definitely in this category... running your first marathon? Yup, also in this category.) will endure longer and more intense training sessions than the average person and will require more fuel to replace what they’ve just used and repair damage. Fuelling improperly or not at all can cause fatigue and delay recovery so that workouts stall or even slide backwards.  Ouch.

So, got a race or competition coming up? Here’s what you need to do.

The general consensus is that a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 (in grams of carbohydrate versus grams of protein) is best after an intense workout, particularly if the workout included a strong cardiovascular component. So, perhaps a half sandwich with some nitrite-free deli meat... or a bowl of cereal with milk.  On the go, a piece of fruit and handful of nuts or maybe a cup of Greek yogourt.  The combinations are endless. The protein helps repair the muscle damage, building bigger, stronger muscles, and the carbohydrate replenishes the muscles’ and bloodstream’s sugar stores. This meal should be eaten within 30-45 minutes of finishing that workout, during which time the muscles are best able to uptake that carbohydrate and store it (read: it goes in your muscles, not on your ass).

If you are trying to maintain or decrease your weight while gaining strength and/or muscle mass, be sneaky about this post-workout meal and time your workout before a meal you would normally eat... for example, work out at 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and have your lunch (with that 3:1 ratio or 4:1 ratio) around 1:00 p.m. This way you refuel properly without adding an extra meal into your day.

Now, getting back to that athlete vs. average person comparison.  There are times I recommend you don’t fuel after a workout AT ALL... watch for my next blog!