When we break down the food we eat, it is most simply broken down into micronutrients and macronutrients. These nutrients are necessary for proper hormone function, growth and energy.
Micronutrients – such as vitamins and minerals – are the nutrients your body needs in small amounts, but they have a big impact.
Macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate, and fat – are the nutrients your body needs in larger amounts that help make up calories and provide energy.
While both are important, macronutrients are what play the biggest role in recovery. They are the building blocks providing our bodies’ with energy and helping fuel/rebuild our muscles after physical activity.
Carbohydrates help provide the body with energy. The body breaks carbohydrates down and uses the glucose for energy. It helps the central nervous system, kidneys, brain, and heart function properly. They are also essential in fueling high intensity workouts and helping the muscles grow big and strong.
Fats make you fat? False. Fats have a bad reputation for causing undesirable weight gain. But in reality, fats are essential for necessary brain function and physical survival. They allow the body to absorb key micronutrients (i.e. vitamins A, D, E, and K). They also help the body with satiety, helping you feel full. They also help give food flavor!
Proteins are broken down by the body into amino acids – 9 essential and 11 nonessential. The nonessential amino acids are those in which our body can synthesize on its own and are not needed through diet. The essential amino acids are those in which are necessary to have in our daily nutrition. Protein is needed for preserving muscle mass, tissue repair, and producing specific hormones and enzymes.
Although all macronutrients have their role in recovery, we are going to focus on protein’s role today. Protein is an indispensable player when it comes to physical recovery, building muscle, and lean mass maintenance.
During high intensity and extensive workouts, there is a significant breakdown of the muscle protein. During recovery, the body utilizes the fuel it has been fed to build those muscles back up. By consuming protein post workout – such as in a post workout shake – in addition to meals and snacks throughout the day, it will help to further promote protein synthesis in the body. A good place to start is consuming a daily total of ~1g protein per pound of body weight with approximately 15-25g (~15g for females/~25g for males) protein immediately post workout. If able to, grass-fed whey protein is ideal post workout. If the whey causes issues, lean protein sources will do the trick. In addition to the post workout protein intake, consuming a form of protein with each meal and snack throughout the day will ensure you are getting enough. A general guideline is: palm size portion of protein with meals and ½ of that with snacks.
All macronutrients have important roles in recovery and in everyday life. Every person will need a little more of one and less of others depending on gender, size, metabolism, and goals. But whether it is for building strength or just maintaining muscle mass, protein is key no matter who you are. In a nutshell, don’t skip on the protein!
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