Central to the postworkout meal is the timing of consumption. Immediately following exercise, blood flow is still increased to working muscle. The goal is to supply the body immediate sources of protein and carbohydrates to begin the anabolic (repair and rebuild) and glycogen storage (refueling) phases. Exercise has a catabolic effect (breaking down) on muscle tissue. Protein is needed to switch from a catabolic state to an anabolic one. Carbs are essential to muscle recovery by replenishing glycogen stores in muscle tissue and speeding up preparation for the next bout of activity.
Whey protein serves as the best source of amino acids for tissue repair postworkout. Whey has a 100 percent bioavailability. In other words, 100 percent of what is consumed is used. Compare that to whole-food options such as egg whites (88 percent), fish (83 percent) or chicken (79 percent), and it is easy to see why it is preferred. Furthermore, and more importantly, whey protein is digested faster than any other protein source. The goal is to maximize nutrient uptake while blood flow is enhanced.
Watermelon, bananas, raisins and potatoes are carbs that should be consumed postexercise. These foods are relatively moderate to high on the glycemic index. Their rapid digestion and absorption make them optimal for uptake into recently worked muscle tissue for the replenishing of muscle glycogen. However, they do offer nutrients the body needs, as well. After working out is the only time where it is recommended to avoid fiber, since it tends to slow down digestion, which is counterproductive to postworkout refueling.
Water, sports drinks and 100 percent natural juices are all viable considerations for postexercise drinks. Water is essential to reinstitute the body's water balance. This can also be achieved by consuming fortified sports drinks that will not only add water back to the body but also supply carbohydrates and the electrolytes (sodium, potassium) lost during sweating. Carbs in sports drinks are proportioned to avoid overconsumption, which could lead to a delay in gastric emptying and fluid absorption.