Should you be eating immediately right after your workout ? The logic is that since you’ve “burned away” the calories during exercise your body is now hungry for food urgently?
If you agree with that then let me tell you that it’s very wrong.
There is no science that says you must immediately eat right after your workout. In fact, doing so may cause problems to your body. Let me explain why…
There are 3 nervous systems in our body: sympathetic, para-sympathetic and enteric. Sympathetic Nervous Systems is the “fight or flight” system. It is triggered when we’re stressed. The source of stress can be from intense workout, mental stress from work or stress from relationship. When you’re dominant in sympathetic nervous system your body shuts down non-important functions of the body and increase nutrients and blood flow to the part where it’s required. For example, if you’re being chased by a tiger, your body stops your digestion system and draws blood into your heart and legs so you have the stamina and strength to escape your predator.
The opposite of it is the para-sympathetic nervous system. This is triggered when you’re relaxed and calm. It’s also the state of your body where it rests and spends time to digest food, and process waste out of your body. Blood flow is increased to your stomach and intestines, and your colon is more relaxed to expel waste.
The enteric system is your gut and we’ll talk about it another day.
So, if you’ve just completed your high intensity workout, and immediately sat at the corner of the gym to eat that home cooked steamed chicken breast with broccoli, you’re doing yourself a disservice. At the point your body is still very sympathetic nervous system dominant. If you force food down at that point your stomach and intestines do not have the optimal condition to break down, digest and absorb the nutrients from the food you ate. This will cause indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas and worst, food may not be fully broken down and enters your blood stream. This may lead to serious problems including damaging your brain.
Hence, when is the best time to eat after workout? The answer is : when you’re calm. You should only eat when your heart rate has returned to normal, or when your body temperature has cooled down, or when your breathing is more relaxed.
You shouldn’t be eating while walking or driving, and try to eat in an environment that’s calm and relaxing. In front of your computer? NO. In front of TV? NOPE. Think about those fancy fine dining restaurants, with warm lighting and nice soothing background music. When you eat in a calm and relaxing environment, your digestion will be optimal and you will be able to fully break down, digest and absorb all the goodness from your food.
Hope this helps