Have you ever heard that it’s important to eat protein and carbs after a workout but never know what the best post workout carbs are and why you should be eating them? I’ll give you my list of the 6 best post workout carbs and explain why after a workout is the best time for carbs.
After a heavy, intense weight training workout, you want to refuel your muscles with protein and good clean carbohydrates. The protein will help repair the muscle damage you just caused, and the carbohydrates are to replenish your lost glycogen stores. Glycogen stores are the way the body stores carbs (glucose) in the body.
Carbs can be utilized by the body in three ways.
- Carbohydrates are prioritized for immediate use by the body to fuel your current actions.
- If carbs aren’t needed to fuel your immediate actions, your body has to store them. The first place your body looks to store glycogen is in the liver and the muscles (which is about 450g carbs total storage for the body).
- If there is no room left in your liver or muscles, the body will then store any excess glycogen in your fat cells, to be used as fuel at a later time.
Why is post workout the best time for carbs?
Heavy weight training causes our muscles to utilize the glycogen previously stored in those muscles to power through the workout. Essentially the stored glycogen is what fuels your muscles to continue to produce energy. So now, after weight training, there is some storage space in your body that wasn’t there before your workout.
Essentially the best time to restore those carbs with glycogen is after your workout. So you are probably wondering, how do you do that? Eat carbs are high in glycogen! For my clients, I advise them to choose carbs that are easy to digest, tend to be less allergenic and are in as close to their whole food form as possible. My top 6 choices also have an adjustable glycemic index, based on how long you cook them and how ripe they are.
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The 6 best post workout carbs are:
- Gluten free oatmeal – Check out these great oatmeal recipes: High Protein Oatmeal, Best Carrot Cake Oatmeal
- Sweet potatoes – Check out these great sweet potato recipes: Sweet Potato Patties, Sweet Potato Pizza Bites
- Banana (high glucose fruit)
You may be wondering why there aren’t more fruits on the list of best post workout carbs. Well, this is because fruits tend to have more fructose than glucose in them. The fructose actually has to be broken down by the liver and converted to glucose before it can be used by the body or stored in the muscles or fat. This makes fruit less than ideal as an option when trying to refuel right after a heavy workout.
My clients practice carb cycling, so weight training days are also higher carb days. On those days, there are some of my other favorite carbs to enjoy!
The “Runner’s Up”:
- Lower sugar fruits: like berries, apples, pears, citrus
- Winter Squash
- Parsnips, rutabaga, carrots
- Very sweet fruits: mango, pineapple, cherries, peaches, apricots, grapes, plums, acai, oranges
- GF Pasta
- GF Bread/Bagels