Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is one of the fundamentals of a fit and active lifestyle. However, competitive athletes and those who regularly perform strenuous workouts have additional needs. Their overall need for calories is higher because of their greater activity level, and foods that are desirable before a workout are different from those consumed after a workout. Bananas and rice, for example, are better suited for post-workout snacks.
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Effects of a Workout
By design, a serious workout makes heavy demands on the body's energy reserves. A serious workout also causes minor damage to the muscles, which gives muscle growth as a byproduct of the repair process. It also burns a significant number of calories, and more importantly it uses up the glycogen stores in your tissues. Glycogen is a natural carbohydrate the body secretes to provide quick energy in time of need. Your workout depletes the glycogen supply, causing your system to switch to body fat to meet its fuel needs.
Reversing Glycogen Depletion
Immediately after a workout, your body's first priority is to replenish its stores of emergency fuel so it can be prepared for any further demands you place on it. Quickly digested protein, such as a whey shake, is used to rebuild muscle. Carbohydrates that cause a quick increase in your blood sugar are ideal for replenishing glycogen quickly. The glycemic index is a tool for determining which foods meet that criterion. Avoid items with high fiber or high levels of fat, both of which slow digestion and the rise of blood sugar.
Bananas and Rice
Bananas and rice are two foods that provide good, healthy carbohydrates with a relatively high glycemic index. Plain white, long-grain rice has a glycemic index of 64, which is one of the highest among grains, according to Harvard Medical School. Bananas have a glycemic index of 54, which is one of the highest among commonly available fresh fruits. Eaten together within 30 minutes of a workout's end, they'll go a long way to help restore your body's glycogen levels.
Taking a container of leftover cooked rice to the gym is one way to have your post-workout snack, but it's probably not the most palatable. Instead, make up a batch of rice pudding and bring that along. The extra sugar and protein from the milk will increase the glycemic index value. Alternatively, eat your bananas with a few rice cakes. At 74, the glycemic index of rice cakes is higher than plain rice. Spread rice cakes with peanut butter to add protein for your muscles, and eat them with the banana. Add a cup of low-fat milk or a carbohydrate sports beverage for added impact.