Science Says: Fast Food Great for Post Workout Refuel

Are you religious in your workouts?  Do you find your bland, post workout re-fuels to be lacking in satisfaction? Well, I’ve got some real, science-backed news for you that I’m betting you’re going to love…

Leave The Sports Drink, Take The Fast Food!

Does this sound like you? You finish work at your job, or your home, you want to make it to the gym before the 6 o’clock crowd comes in, so you put off dinner.  You spend over an hour doing cardio and weight training, drinking only sports water to keep you going.

And when you’re finally done, you’re tired, sweating and starving!  You feel like you could eat a cow.  But all those weight loss, workout training magazines say you should re-fuel post workout with a high protein drink or one of those watery sports drinks.  Sure, they’re packed with a lot of nutrients that your body needs to build muscle.  But, the thought of gulping down one of those instead of a real-food dinner, leaves you feeling a little sad and deprived.  Right?

Well, now you don’t have to and you don’t have to feel guilty about it.   Nutrition and metabolism scientists at the University of Montana recently reported the results of a study they did on post-workout re-fuel choices.

The UM researchers took a group of 11 male cyclists and had them do one, exhausting 90 minute cycling workout.  Afterwards, they gave them a combination of Gatorade, Powerbars, and Clif Shot Bloks nutritional products.  They let the men recover for 4 hours and then performed specific metabolism tests on them.  They took muscle biopsies and blood samples and recorded the level of glycogen (muscle sugar), blood glucose and insulin levels.

At a separate time, they had the men do a second workout, again, a 90 minute strenuous ride.  Afterwards, they allowed the men to eat a small, regular meal size amount of fast foods including hamburgers and french fries or hash browns.  Again, they let them recover for 4 hours, and then did the same tests on them.

The tests revealed findings that even surprised the researchers.  There was absolutely no difference in glycogen, blood glucose and insulin levels between the fast food re-fuels and the sports nutrition supplements.  The researchers concluded that if you’re craving a fast food dinner after your strenuous workout, you can reap the same nutrition and metabolism benefits as expensive sport supplement drinks, products.

Now, keep in mind that the researchers aren’t, nor am I, recommending that you “supersize” your fast food order after a workout.  But, a meal within a normal, 1 person, regular serving size is fine.

A post workout lunch or dinner might look like this:

1 hamburger with cheese (try to hold the mayo and sugary ketchup; add extra mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomato instead).  A double-meat patty could be okay on a smaller burger, especially if you forego the bun.

1 regular fries.  Again, go easy on the sugary ketchup.

1 small, regular soft drink (no 20 ounce cups!).  Even though I don’t recommend drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks at all, 1 small regular soda is okay.  But, an unsweetened iced tea with stevia, or even a carton of chocolate milk, would be better choices.  Tea helps boost your metabolism and chocolate milk was also recently found to re-store glycogen levels as well as sports drinks.

If you workout in the morning before breakfast and want to hit the drive-thru on the way home,  your fast food meal might look like this:

Choice #1:

1 Egg/Cheese English muffin sandwich (again, nix the mayo, if possible).
1 regular size hash browns
1 orange juice and 1 coffee  (cream and sugar/sweetener optional)

Choice #2:

Scrambled eggs (with these, you could get double orders to increase protein)
1 stack pancakes
1 orange juice and 1 coffee (cream optional)

You can make some good food choices off the fast food menu and still satisfy your nutritional requirements as well as your cravings. Just be sure to include enough protein to a ratio of a moderate amount of carbohydrate, as was used in the studies.

Your muscles need protein to heal the tiny tears that occur during working out and make themselves stronger, larger.  The rest of you needs protein to balance blood sugar and insulin levels against the glucose from the carbs.  As you get older, your muscles break down faster, so you need to keep a steady intake of protein, at least 100 grams a day.

In addition, a certain amount of carbs is necessary to keep your brain functioning correctly and make serotonin, a mood stabilizer.  Even though lower carb diets will help you lose belly fat faster, going too low on carbs is a recipe for diet failure. Your body lets go of water weight, but true fat loss will slow way down as your body thinks it’s in starvation mode.  A balanced fast food meal can help you achieve your workout, weight control goals in several ways.  Just use moderation and aim for only a few fast food meals a week.

You need to work out to maintain/build muscle as you get older.  You also need to keep your weight under control to prevent diabetes and heart disease.  If answering a fast food craving here and there helps you stay on course, then science says, go for it!

About Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Dr. Mark A. Rosenberg, MD Dr. Mark Rosenberg received his doctorate from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1988 and has been involved with drug research since 1991. With numerous certifications in several different fields of medicine, psychology, healthy aging and fitness, Dr. Rosenberg has a wide breadth of experience in both the public and private sector with particular expertise in both the mechanism of cancer treatment failure and in treating obesity. He currently is researching new compounds to treat cancer and obesity, including receiving approval status for an investigational new drug that works with chemotherapy and a patent pending for an oral appetite suppressant. He is currently President of the Institute for Healthy Aging, Program Director of the Integrative Cancer Fellowship, and Chief Medical Officer of Rose Pharmaceuticals. His work has been published in various trade and academic journals. In addition to his many medical certifications, he also personally committed to physical fitness and is a certified physical fitness trainer.
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