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Top 3 Post-Workout Carbs

Ashleigh Atkinson, MHK

What are the best carbohydrate sources for you to consume after you train?

After your workout is a vital time frame when it comes to your daily nutritional needs. If you’ve trained with intensity and purpose, you’ve used glycogen for energy. If you’re looking to gain muscle, your primary focus will be to replenish these stores for the next workout.

If you want to sculpt an enviable physique, you shouldn’t approach the post-workout window as a free-for-all. Rather, maximize your results by including the most beneficial foods. When it comes to muscle growth, a fast-digesting source of protein is imperative, but that’s fairly well known. Carbohydrates aid recovery, muscle growth, and replenish glycogen—all important factors after training. But not all carbs are created equally. Some are a better choice post-workout than others, and we want to make sure you pick the best options.

Glycogen Galore

It’s important to know that the body stores glycogen in two different locations: the liver and skeletal muscle. Comparatively, the muscles store about four times more glycogen than the liver. Muscle glycogen is a form of energy storage for the muscle itself, while the liver’s stored glycogen provides energy throughout the body, especially the central nervous system. The main post-workout focus is to replenish the skeletal muscle stores to keep the muscle cells full and able to repair the damage done during training.

Carb Feasting

The rules of nutrition continue to change, with experts all having their own approaches. It’s undeniable that nutritional needs are unique to the individual, but everyone agrees on some basics: Post-workout carbs are beneficial. Refuel your muscle glycogen with the following carb choices:

White rice. This food may seem pretty basic, a bodybuilder’s staple item, but its post-workout benefits are undeniable. White rice is easily digested and has a high glycemic index, meaning it will quickly increase your blood sugar to effectively replenish glycogen. Plus, it goes well with just about any protein option, making it versatile, and it’s easy to cook in bulk for your meal prep needs.

Cereal. Skip the sugar-loaded, rainbow-dyed cereals and opt for a healthier variety that’s low in sugar. Rice or corn-based options act quickly in your system, getting right to work in your muscles. Make it a complete meal by mixing your favourite protein powder into the milk, and you’ve stepped up your cereal game to bodybuilder status.

Potatoes. This is another basic food, but there’s a caveat. Skip the post-workout sweet potato and stick to the white variety. Sweet potatoes are a complex carb with a low glycemic index, meaning they work slowly and provide sustained energy. These are beneficial factors at other points in the day, but not following your training session. Potatoes are hearty, helping you feel full, which can be critical during dieting phases.

Many other carbohydrates are beneficial in the post-workout time frame, but these three stand out for being cost-effective, versatile, and gluten-free. Often, you can’t beat the staples, and keeping things simple can be most beneficial for your digestive tract.

Bonus tip: Pineapple is a great addition to your post-workout meal. It contains bromelain, an enzyme known to aid the digestion of protein. Plus, it has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, is packed with vitamins and minerals, and adds a sweet flavour with a tropical twist to your meal.

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