The answer to this lies in the type of exercise you’ve just performed. This is because different fuelling systems require different nutrient ‘refills’.  In this article we take a closer look at ideal post-workout meal options. This is to ensure both that growth hormone levels remain high (in order for muscle growth to occur) and that insulin levels remain low (in order to avoid body fat storage).

Insulin sensitivity

Firstly, you need to understand that any form of exercise increases or enhances insulin sensitivity.  Let me explain the relevance of this.

When you eat a meal that has carbohydrates in it (fruits, vegetables, grains or simple sugars) the pancreas is stimulated to produce insulin.  Insulin is the hormone that ‘collects’ glucose (the end result of the breakdown of carbs) from the bloodstream and takes it to the cells. In effect, it is looking for a place to store this sugar.  Enhanced insulin sensitivity means that it’s easier for your body to take up sugar from your bloodstream into tissues like muscles, where it can be stored or used immediately as fuel.

Normally, the cells should be receptive to insulin’s signal (to ‘open up’ and let glucose in) and should respond appropriately.  However, if your diet contains high amounts of carbs (e.g. processed carbs like bread, pasta, white rice, biscuits, pastries, sugary drinks, energy bars etc.), more insulin is required to collect the larger amounts of sugar from the blood.

Say what? When cells become ‘deaf’

Over time, with this pattern of higher insulin levels, the cells become ‘deaf’ to the signal. The cells then need more and more insulin in order to recognise, or hear, the signal.  This is what’s called insulin resistance, or impaired insulin sensitivity. It’s a hallmark of Type II diabetes, as well as being a major risk factor for other chronic diseases.

Being insulin sensitive is important because elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain.

Now, going back to the fact that exercise enhances insulin sensitivity. It’s important to note that this is particularly true when the post-workout meal is low in starchy carbs.  After a training session, the body will be low in nitrogen and certain muscle tissue will have broken down.  This leads to the need for replenishment with both amino acids (proteins) and these low starch carbs.

After a cardio session

Ideally, after this type of workout, wait 45-60 minutes to make the most of the calorie-burning period that comes with the workout (i.e. the temporary increase in metabolic rate).  Don’t wait longer than 60 minutes as this shifts the body into ‘starvation’ mode, tending to store rather than burn. Keep this meal or snack low in starchy carbs (e.g. above-ground vegetables or salads). Also, include some protein – what kind will depend entirely on your metabolic type.

After a weight training session

Due to the nature of the muscle breakdown and the energy system used, you want food to be quickly absorbed. You should therefore eat within 15-30 minutes post-workout.  This meal or snack should be high in both protein (the redder and darker animal proteins are higher in amino acids). It should also include more starchy carbs, e.g. a banana (containing high potassium levels, which appears to help with recovery).  Other starchy vegetable-type carbs include below-ground vegetables or squashes.

The importance of your metabolic type (MT)

Understanding your own unique biochemical fuel needs is the weight and health–enhancing tool you can use.  If you require more densely–packed amino acids, due to the fact that you tend to oxidise (burn) your carbohydrates too quickly, then good quality red meats, organ meats and dark poultry meats are going to be your best amino acid replacement.  The lighter proteins will be better for you if you oxidise slowly.

If you’re an MT that utilises sugars well, your carb choices will be different from an MT that doesn’t handle it well.  Each MT requires a unique mix of carbs, proteins and fats at each meal, as well as very specific types of nutrients.

Once you establish and eat to your metabolic type, you’ll be working with your biochemistry, instead of against it. This leads to improved health, weight, performance, energy and immunity.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) vs Insulin

Once you’ve promoted the release of HGH through exercise, avoid any food or drink that stimulates the production of insulin.  This includes so-called energy drinks, fruit juices or other sugary drinks.  This is because these two hormones compete for hormone receptor site space. Due to insulin’s importance in sustaining health – it will always win.  This means that you will have effectively wasted the training session you just did because of the ‘loss’ of HGH!

If you’re going to commit yourself to the really healthy practice of exercising regularly, be smart about your post-training diet.  You’ll be glad you did, since low body fat, high performance and great energy levels will be the result…