How important is protein after exercise?
Nutrition supplements often make huge claims about the importance of protein supplementation for exercise performance, but how much of this is clever marketing? Research is mixed on the impact of protein supplements and muscle recovery. However, some evidence does show that regularly consuming protein after daily exercise helps reduce muscle soreness and markers of muscle damage (Pasiakos et al., 2014).
Protein isn’t the only important thing after exercise. During exercise the body first uses glycogen, also known as carbohydrate stores, as fuel. The muscles in the body use these stores as their primary source of energy during exercise, especially during aerobic activities. The fatigue you feel during or after physical activity may indicate that the carbohydrate stores are used up (Jensen et al., 2011). For this reason, it’s important that a carbohydrate-rich diet filled with protein is consumed after exercise to replenish these stores and help with muscle repair (Murray and Rosenbloom, 2018).
So what should you eat after exercising? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a post-work meal focused on replenishing the body with carbs, rebuilding the muscle with protein, and rehydrating the body with fluids and electrolytes. Some snacks they suggest consuming after exercise are low-fat chocolate milk, vanilla yogurt, and a smoothie made with protein and fruit.
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