Besides the rest you have earned after your Crossfit WOD, you also need protein sources to reward your body and optimise the results you hope to achieve through exercise. Some athletes may feel like rushing straight to the fridge, while others are unable to detect any signs of hunger in the lethargy that follows an intense training session, however, whether it shows or not, the body does need refuelling after exercise.
During your workout, the cells in your muscles are subjected to higher stress than they normally are, among them, the significant release of lactic acid which occurs in exercise. This leads to the organism having to recover a part of the ‘damaged’ cells, while also replacing some of the old cells with new ones, in the growth of which protein synthesis is vital.
Therefore, the post-workout diet must include proteins in order for the body to be assisted in its process of recovery from effort.
As almost all proteins are unable to reach the cells of the body in their original form, they are broken down to their components, amino acids. Following this process, protein synthesis is carried out, thus enabling the new cells to grow and develop. In addition, studies show that consuming proteins alongside carbohydrates helps enhance glycogen re-synthesis.
Now that we have seen why a high protein intake is necessary after exercise, it is time to bring up two questions which many crossfitters may have asked themselves with regard to gaining the best results from their diet, namely when to eat and what to eat in order for their body to benefit most from its consumption of protein. Although it is difficult to make a precise assumption regarding the most suitable time when food rich in protein should be consumed after a workout, there is general agreement over the fact that a snack or a meal featuring protein eaten soon after a training session greatly contributes to speeding up the recovery process.
When it comes to our second question, the answers are much less debatable. It is a well-known fact that meat is normally the main protein provider for omnivorous species like humans. However, there is no scarcity of natural vegetal protein sources, which cater for all kinds of diets. The following seven snacks and components of full meals are some of the most accessible and nutritious alternatives you should look forward to consuming at the end of every workout:
POST WORKOUT PROTEIN SOURCES – COOKED FOOD
They contain the highest amount of protein after the animal-based foods, thus being the best natural sources available to vegetarians and vegans. Although they do not have all nine essential amino acids found in meat, they feature lysine, which is usually absent in plant-based compounds. Furthermore, they are low in fat.
Soybeans are among the varieties with the highest protein content.
There are numerous health benefits brought by the consumption of fish.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins A and D
- Significant amounts of protein
In comparison with meat, it has more protein and far lower quantities of saturated fats, making it a top candidate for a cooked post workout meal. Particularly protein-rich species are tuna, salmon and cod.
Tofu is a wonderful vegan alternative to fish or meat, containing eight of the nine essential amino acids, iron, calcium and many other nutrients. Although its raw form is often criticised for its not very spectacular taste, tofu is very versatile: there are many ways to cook it which would enable you to both benefit from all the protein it boasts and enjoy a delicious dish.
It is no secret that eggs offer a broad range of health benefits, and protein is no exception. They contain all nine essential amino acids, as well as many other important nutrients. It is worth noting that the protein content is equally split between the yolk and the white, so eating the whole egg would be advisable. Furthermore, eggs are considered to be richest in protein in their hard-boiled state.
POST WORKOUT PROTEIN SOURCES – SNACKS
5. GREEK YOGHURT
Dairy products contain high amounts of protein, and Greek yoghurt is a particularly tasty and practical choice for a post workout snack. Although the whole variety contains the most protein, those with less fat and the fat-free type are not much less valuable either, and the same applies to the alternatives with fruit or honey. If you prefer, you could add a few berries or dried fruits to a plain Greek yoghurt yourself and you will get a mouth-watering mix of protein, calcium and Vitamins D and B12.
6. MIXED NUTS
Here is another protein-rich option which is easy to carry around and consume at any time of day (and especially after a training session!). Whether you select a bag containing a wider selection of nuts or go for the varieties with the highest amount of protein, namely almonds and pistachios, you will be sure to offer your body a precious recovery boost, as well as fibres, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.
7. CHOCOLATE MILK
Despite being often seen as a children’s favourite, chocolate milk should not be underestimated when it comes to its protein content, so do not hesitate to grab a bottle to drink just after your workout. There are some added bonuses to this, as you will not only benefit from all the protein, but also hydrate and enjoy a welcome boost of energy thanks to the chocolate content.
No matter how hungry you feel after a workout, there is no need to sit down for a full, cooked meal in order to get the necessary protein to help your muscles recover following the strenuous effort they have made. Nor is it highly advisable to restrict yourself to protein bars, as there are numerous natural types of food with a high protein content which you can eat raw as snacks or include in a warm meal. So don’t forget that bag of nuts the next time you hit the Box!