Sunday, December 15, 2013

Recovery Redefined: Post-workout Nutrition

The biggest error in the common view of nutrition is the focus on small details. This error is evidenced by questions like, “How much protein, carbs, fats should you eat?” Food is greater than the sum of its parts. Food is meant to be enjoyed and we lose much of that enjoyment when we treat it like chemistry.

It is important to eat after exercise—and it should be soon after. However, it is unimportant to focus on small details like an exact number of minutes after a workout or a precise amount of protein or carbohydrates. Encourage your clients to choose a post-workout meal that they look forward to enjoying—consider the tastes, textures and aromas of the food they want to enjoy after a workout.

When the body is consistently fed real foods, it gives you accurate signals of what it needs and when. All that is required is to listen to the intuitive signals the body sends and avoid the common mistake of over-thinking what “should” be eaten after a workout. Our bodies are smarter than any expert will ever be. If an individual is avoiding overly processed unnaturally sweet and salty foods, he or she can learn to trust the signals the body sends.

Eating on Rest Days

In general, a recovery day requires a slightly lower amount of food than a workout day. However, it is important to avoid another major error in nutrition and steer clear of the energy-balance equation. Many fitness professionals and even some people with advanced degrees who really should know better still erroneously promote this flawed concept—often with intelligent-sounding references to the First Law of Thermodynamics even though they have never studied physics.

This law has everything to do with matter and energy in chemistry and physics labs, and little to do with a sentient human with thoughts and feelings about food that powerfully affect body chemistry. The matter and energy that make up each human being is animated with consciousness not found in rocks, gasses and liquids. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail, but our thoughts, feelings and beliefs about the relative healthfulness of what we are eating directly affects the body’s response to that food.

This is another area where the wisdom of the body must be respected for true knowledge, understanding and appreciation for food to develop. Let your body tell you what it needs on recovery days and listen. A recovery day is not a day to “reward” oneself for exercise (as if exercise is a chore or tedious task for which there needs to be a reward). Exercise is its own reward—and so should be the act of eating.

If you are not exercising, your body will “ask” you for less food anyway. Attempting to quantify an exact amount of how much less is an exercise in tedium, drudgery and inaccuracy that is sure to remove any sense of enjoyment around eating and limit progress.