Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Post-Workout Nutrition: Fasting vs. Eating

As previously stated, exercise is the one area in which I have had a hard time letting go of some of my conventional wisdom habits. I have developed a primal workout that I try to do every other day, but I'm still a slave to the distance running. For one, I like it. Secondly, while it's easy to see how sugar, highly processed foods, and grains are bad for the body, it's a lot harder to see how running a few miles is bad.
What I have discovered is what appears to be a compromise between the primal lifestyle and the fact that I really enjoy endurance activities (this time of year, running is mainly to keep me in shape for mountaineering). I do a distance run at a decent pace (about 8min/mile) twice per week followed by an intense lifting session, and do primal workouts 4 days a week (right now, that involves rugby practice 3 days/week, but because it involves a lot of sprinting and bursts of energy, I'd say it's fairly primal ... but rugby is over in a week so I'm not sure exactly what types of workouts I'll be doing to replace it when the time comes). This schedule seems to allow me to improve my cardio-vascular fitness level at a good pace.
One primal idea that I have implemented in the past couple weeks that seems to have greatly helped both my strength and endurance is the post-workout fast. Having been told for years how important it is to eat protein and carbs after a workout to replenish my muscles glycogen stores, I usually followed my intense workouts with some sort of meal (often, a protein shake).
That, to put it nicely, is BULLSHIT. Fasting for 1-3 hours after a workout has yielded exponentially better results than eating directly after a workout ever has. I read something about how eating after a workout diminishes the amount of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) released by one's body, therefore decreasing one's actual muscular gains. All I can say is, not only have I noticed that I'm stronger, but I feel less sore the day after and my "recovery time" has decreased. It even seems to have helped my cardio workouts, as far as improvement from one week to the next.
So, admittedly, I still do cardio, and I may always do cardio (because I'm doing it to be able to do fun things like climb mountains, not because I think it will get me in shape), but my workouts are becoming more primal, one step at a time.

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