“What should I eat after a workout to get the best insulin spike?” — PRADEEP R., LANTANA, FLORIDA
It’s time to clear up one of the biggest misconceptions about post-workout nutrition.
It’s been (correctly) reported that your body needs a rise in insulin to drive protein and carbohydrates into the muscles to help them recover and grow. Starchy foods accomplish this, which is why rice and potatoes are staples in any bodybuilder’s diet. But here’s the funny thing: The one time of day you definitely don’t need to boost insulin is immediately after a weight workout.
Research from the Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that muscle contractions facilitate glucose transport into muscle cells, essentially mimicking the work insulin does. In other words, lifting primes the pump for you, so you don’t need a sharp rise in insulin to get nutrition into the muscles.
So, rather than spend money on fancy post-workout supps that spike insulin, eat a piece of whole fruit. Fast-digesting carbs are still important after a workout because they halt muscle breakdown, so a mere banana will get the job done.
Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., is the Men’s Fitness training director and author of 101 Best Workouts of All Time, 101bestworkouts.com.