During exercise and sports activities, it’s imperative to fuel the body with the proper nutrition to not only enhance performance, but also to prevent muscle wasting from not eating enough calories, especially calories from the right food sources. Within 60 to 90 minutes of intense physical activity, if the body does not receive at least 3-4 ounces of protein (based on a ratio of 0.4-0.5g/kg of body weight) (Aragon, 2013), muscle wasting occurs. Studies have shown that even longer periods of prolonged nutritional support can lead to further muscle breakdown. This literally means that the body will try to “self-feed” and begins to burn muscle for energy, which in turn leads to increased fat deposits. This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish when we are exercising or playing sports! The window of opportunity to eat should be taken advantage of with the proper blend of nutrients if we are to maintain our muscle mass and overall health.
A blend of high protein foods and healthy carbohydrate sources eaten at least an hour or two after working out is a good way to prevent muscle destruction.
Here are a few sources of protein that are quick and easy for athletes:
• 2 hard boiled eggs
• Whey, Casein or beef-based protein shake
• Organic lunch meats
• Tuna fish
• 2 ounces of low-fat mozzarella cheese
• Lean steak
• Chicken and turkey breast
• 1 cup of Greek yogurt
Healthy carbohydrate sources to pair with the protein choice can include:
• Legumes, such as hummus, black beans, lentils
• Whole wheat organic grain
• Quinoa (which contains ample protein as well!)
• Raw nuts
• Whole grain granola
• ½ banana
With a few simple changes to ones eating habits following exercise or sports activities, muscle mass can be maintained and cellular energy stores replenished. This will also boost the body’s metabolic rate and keep one energized, preventing post-workout fatigue, cramps, and crashes. Stay strong by eating well!
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Aragon, A. &. (2013, January 29). JISSN. Retrieved September 10, 2015, from Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: http://www.jissn.com/content/10/1/5