How many times have you been at the end of a workout class and heard your instructor tell you to refuel your body with protein within a couple of hours after the class is finished? It's a popular phrase touted by trainers and fitness professionals, and it's true that protein is important to repair muscles, ultimately aiding in muscle growth.
But many people neglect another important macronutrient for your muscles: carbs. While carbs have gotten a bad rap, especially when it comes to losing weight and getting in shape, they can actually help fuel your muscles. That's because your body relies on glycogen (which is created from carbs and stored in you muscles, liver, and brain) to fuel muscles and workouts.
"During workouts, the body relies and depends on muscle glycogen," Jim White, RDN, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, told POPSUGAR. "Having low levels of muscle glycogen . . . would negatively affect performance for high-intensity exercise." Not only can carbs help fuel your workout, but they help repair muscle tissue after exercise in a process called "muscle glycogen resynthesis."
The Refuel Formula
So when you're recovering form your workouts, it's important to eat carbohydrates, too — you need to replace the glycogen that you used in your last workout. Ideally, after a moderate to intense workout, you would be eating a combination of protein and carbs to fuel your muscles and replenish glycogen stores. If you're looking to put on muscle, Jim recommends eating a macro breakdown of 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.
So throw some fruit into your protein smoothie, grab an apple and peanut butter, or snack on low-fat cheese and whole wheat crackers — the possibilities for post-workout snacks are endless.