You Must Do This After Exercise

After a strenuous workout, your body needs more than water. It also needs carbohydrates to rebuild worn muscles and prime your body for the next training. If you don't eat the right food after exercise or if you skip the post-exercise meal, it will actually hurt you.

The American College of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association, and the Dietitians of Canada reviewed two decades of research, which unequivocally showed that the right food in our Atkins-fueled society is none other than carbohydrates.

"You never think that you can just continue to ride your car without ever going to the gas station," Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist of the American Council on Exercise, told The Associated Press. "We can't expect to be able to continue to exercise our bodies without refueling them."

Stored as glycogen in muscle cells, carbohydrates are the main source of energy during physical activity. When we exercise, the glycogen reserves become depleted. Only carbs will replenish them. If you skip the post-workout meal, your muscles will breakdown and you'll feel more fatigued during the next workout.

What carbs should you eat? Pasta, English muffins, oatmeal, whole-grain cereals, and low-fat yogurt are ideal post-training food.

How much should you eat? The amount you need depends on the duration and intensity of your workout, as well as when the next training session will occur, notes AP. Obviously, a marathoner needs more than a gym rat. The general guideline is a half-gram of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. So a 150-pound person should eat about 75 grams of carbs or the equivalent of a cup of cooked pasta.

When should you eat it? Ideally, the post-exercise meal should be consumed 30 minutes to an hour after vigorous exercise because this is when the body acts like a sponge to absorb the nutrients.

What about protein? While protein will help repair muscle, carbohydrates are king when it comes to helping the body recoup. Eating too much protein will slow rehydration.

Will all those carbs make you fat? No! "This isn't going to sabotage weight-loss efforts," Bryant told AP. "If anything, it will allow you to be more productive in your exercise, which in the long term is going to help you with your weight-loss efforts."