My Previous (Horrible) Dietary Habits
I wasn’t always healthy. Not even a few years ago. Not even a few months ago. “Healthy” is a very subjective term. The World Health Organization defined the term in 1946 as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I think the keyword in this definition is complete. Sure I was physically exercising and pushing my body to its limits but unfortunately, I wasn’t seeing that exercise was only a part of the picture. What I was lacking was good nutrition, a good diet.
I was fuelling (poisoning) myself with a typical Asian diet. This consisted of consuming instant noodles for lunch and MSG/sodium saturated Chinese fast food takeout for dinner on a daily basis. Literally. The only “healthy” thing I consumed was a hard-boiled egg and Corn Flakes cereal for breakfast. I guess it didn’t come as a huge shock when I measured my blood pressure during my 2nd year pharmacy lab and found it to be 140/90 mm Hg (yes I took an average of 3 readings and hadn’t eaten anything, walked around, or smoked within the last 30 minutes). For adults, an optimal reading is deemed lower than 120/80.
These are photos of the latest instant noodles I had consumed. Take a look at the Nutrition Facts.
So eating 1 pack of instant noodles is comparable to eating a McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich. A Big Mac contains 590 calories, 11 g of saturated fat, 47 g of carbohydrates…
Wait, 2060 mg of sodium in 1 pack of Instant Noodles?!
That’s right, one pack contains over 2000 mg of sodium! That’s essentially 100% of the daily value of sodium intake that the DASH diet recommends for young, healthy people without risk for high blood pressure. I think I get it now; that little running boy on the noodle package is carrying a defibrillator to resuscitate people after having induced a heart attack. Makes perfect sense.
Post-Workout Nutrition – Why do we need to eat after working out?
When you’re working out and trying to build muscle, the most essential meal is the one you have after exercising. As mentioned in The Secret to Bulking Up, your energy input must exceed your energy lost through physical activity if you want to put on muscle. Remember, muscle growth and remodeling can only occur if your muscle is provided the right materials. Think of your muscles like a house: you can remodel your house by removing old walls and building better, stronger foundation. But if you don’t have any bricks, then how can you rebuild? You’ll be left with a lesser, incomplete house.
This analogy applies to muscle remodeling. Following exercise, your carbohydrate stores and protein structures in your muscles are depleted and broken down. If you do not replenish your body with nutrients within an hour after working out, your muscles will be less likely to rebuild and repair themselves.
The first thing your body needs are amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Amino acids are used for all sorts of functions such as signalling, bone development, hormones, and most importantly, building muscle.
What’s the best way to take protein?
Remember that your digestive tract is not functioning optimally after a workout because the blood required for digestion is pooled in your muscles.
This is why the best post workout nutrition after resistance (weight) training is whey protein and a fast absorbed carbohydrate, such as a banana.
Whey protein is the most efficient way of replenishing our amino acids. It is quickly absorbed into our body since it is pre-digested and can be prepared within seconds.
You’ll want to down your protein shake within 15-30 minutes after completing your workout.
My Post Workout Meal
By simply combining flax whole grain bread, spinach, tomatoes, and lean turkey breast into my sandwich, I’ve hit all the major food groups needed to replenish my body. I get high quality protein from the lean turkey breast slices and carbs from the flax bread and vegetables. The fat in lean turkey breast is mostly monounsaturated and only makes up 1 g per serving.
Hard Boiled Egg
Eggs (especially raw eggs) are a high quality source of protein providing 6 g per serving. Never throw out the egg yolk; the egg yolk is by far the healthiest part of the egg containing antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and lutein just to name a few.
Greek yogurt is also high in protein; a 6 ounce serving contains 15-20 g of protein, similar to what you’d see in 2-3 ounces of lean meat, making it a great source of protein for vegetarians. Greek yogurt also has less carbs than regular yogurt: 5-8 g vs 13-17 g per serving.
Eating a fruit after exercising is important to replenish the glucose that your muscles have lost during a workout. Fruits are rapidly absorbed carbohydrates which are perfect for replenishing your glycogen stores. I’ve added a cup of sliced pineapples into my yogurt. Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain which may help fight cancer by restoring balance to your immune system. Fruits and vegetables are great to have with every meal since they are low in calories; you can consume a lot without putting on weight! They are also laden with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Try limiting the majority of your carbs to post workout only. Although you need carbs for energy, most people eat more than is required. Keep in mind that excess carbs will get stored as fat!