Nutrition and fitness research is finally gaining traction. I say “finally” because the industrial food system’s assault on our diets is 30-40 years in the making. As the field of food science grows (pardon the pun) more information that is useful for our day to day becomes available. A recent example comes from a food and exercise study in the The Journal of Applied Physiology. Click here for a free PDF of the report.
The researchers had a group of men engage in exercise, manipulated their food intake post-exercise and then took various measures of metabolism. Specifically, they focused on insulin sensitivity, a measure of the body’s ability to take up sugars (carbs) and transform them into energy used by the muscles. They discovered that when the participants ate relatively-low carb meals after exercising they exhibited higher insulin sensitivity. Essentially, eating more fruits, vegetables and proteins (and less carbohydrates) after exercising helps your body becomes more efficient at using the carbs/sugars in ways that are more productive and beneficial (i.e. muscle-based energy expenditure, as opposed to the storing of sugars that eventually become fat).
This is a great example of how malleable our bodies and it’s systems are. When we pay just a little attention to our behaviors and habits, and add in small changes we can have a potentially profound effect on our health, fitness and well-being.
Take-away message: Regular exercise is important, but what you eat after exercise also matters. Veggies! Fruit!
*EDIT (May, 23 2010): I wanted to clarify that the notion of eating more fruits and vegetables after exercise is probably a better idea for folks using exercise to lose weight or just stay in shape. If you are someone exercising frequently and doing so at high intensities for long periods of time (i.e. training for a marathon) the dietary recommendations may be different. See Runners World for a good breakdown on dietary recommendations for non-elite runners/athletes.