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The Importance of a Post-Work Out Meal by Hayley Constance

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You’ve likely heard of the “anabolic window” and while there’s conflicting evidence on how large this window actually is or the amounts of each macronutrient that should be taken in during, it’s important to eat soon after you workout in order to recover faster, balance hormone levels, and get important nutrients to the muscles broken down during the WOD.

Our bodies work to maintain a delicate balance of stored sugar (glycogen) and blood sugar (glucose). When our blood sugar levels are too low, glycogen stores are broken down in order to bring levels back up. Exercising with moderate to high intensity causes our bodies to burn through blood sugar and then glycogen and when these stores are no longer adequate the process of gluconeogenesis kicks in. Gluconeogenesis is the making of new glucose by the breakdown of amino acids and fats in the body, meaning when we don’t refuel after a workout, our bodies begin breaking down more muscle to manufacture glucose! Clearly, this isn’t conducive to muscle repair and growth.

Fasting after exercise has shown to lead to more muscle soreness and fatigue and even elevated levels of testosterone in women. Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, also elevates with an intense workout and is brought back into balance when we eat.

Ideally your workouts happen before a normal mealtime and you’re able to eat a fully balanced meal within an hour of your WOD, making sure to get good amounts of both quality proteins and starchy carbs. I will always, always advise eating real food over a protein shake or bar after your work out. They can be good in a pinch but likely don’t provide the necessary mix of protein and carbs needed for muscle repair or a good amount of micronutrients to nourish the body.