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Why is it important to earn certain meals with a workout

 | 23 Comments  | Articles, Nutrition


As many of you already know,  I have been following a control carb diet for well over seven years now. Eating this way keeps me energized,  lean, and strong for my workouts and day to day activities.

I divide my meals into two major categories:

FM– Free meals

These are meals that are low in carbs, mostly based around veggies, protein, and healthy fats. I enjoy FM meals any time of the day.

WEM– Workout Earned Meals

These are meals that I have earned with a high-intensity workout and tend to be higher carbs. These are things like fast-digesting starchy carbs (such as baked potatoes, rice, legumes, white bread or pasta), certain fruit, and alcohol. I tend to only eat these on days that I have done a high-intensity workout.

While there is now new research that shows eating carbs right after your workout is no longer as important as the number of total carbs you eat over the course of the day, you can benefit greatly when you save these carbs for the days you do a high-intensity workout.

Here’s why…

After high-intensity exercise, our bodies are primed to accept and use nutrients (especially carbs) more effectively than on the days when we don’t work out. After an intense workout, our muscle and liver glycogen levels are running low. When you eat a WEM or a higher carb meal, these carbs get sucked up by your muscles, and it works to repair them and deliver nutrients more efficiently. When you eat carbs without depleting your glycogen stores, you are more likely to store these carbs as body fat, since muscle and liver levels are full.

Earning your carb-heavy meals with a workout is a great way to ensure you’re burning fat instead of storing it. 

Rob Sulaver, Board of Advisors for Arnold Schwarzenegger, says, ”Eating a high carb meal when you work out will feed those hungry muscles without storing energy as fat. An influx of carbs will spike your insulin which will drive glycogen into your muscles and get you all prepped for your next intense workout. Plus, this carb/insulin spike helps with a cascade effect that returns your hormones to their happy pre-workout state, because while all those higher-stress hormones are great when you’re working out, you don’t want ‘em in your system all day.”

Earning your WEM meals with a workout will fuel your muscles, prep your body for the next workout, drive essential nutrients into your muscles, and help you burn fat instead of storing it.

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23 comments on “Why is it important to earn certain meals with a workout”

  1. private avatar image

    Private  |  CA, USA

    At almost 48, I have tried many different diets but have found over time the one I feel the best on and allows for sustained energy throughout the day is the Zone type diet. I eat about 5 smaller meals a day with a combination of protein, fat, and good carbs. I have four kids and am rarely sitting or not moving. I eat when I am hungry and eat what sounds good and most of the time it is healthy. The more I think about a “diet” it takes the joy out of eating which is counter productive to what food should be. Nourishment for your body and mind. Don’t stress so much and listen to your body.

    • private avatar image

      Private  |  OHIO, United States

      The best way at 50+ for me to lose and maintain is just simply to eat less. Not talking deprivation here. I used to be able to eat whatever and just exercise. Now I have to exercise and reduce calories. I have been doing intermittent fasting without even knowing. No carbs or snacks after 7pm, then usually lemon water, coffee with a splash of almond milk and a workout, then breakfast at work around 10. Then I eat again at 12, then small amount of dinner at 6. I find that eating less overall makes me feel better with more energy. On weekends I typically do not eat until around 11 am, then again at 3 or 4. I don’t avoid carbs, but I have cut back a little.

  2. private avatar image

    Private  |  buenos aires, argentina

    Hello zuzka …. following with these recommendations on nutrition can you build muscle? It would be very helpful to have some information about it. Many thanks and greetings from Argentina.

    • private avatar image

      Private  |  Los Angeles, CA, USA

      Do I look like I don’t have any muscle? 🙂 I think that should answer your question….

      • private avatar image

        Private  |  buenos aires, argentina

        Thanks zuzka for answering me .. I have been a member of zgym for more than two years, I am very satisfied with the achievements, but I would like to gain muscle mass and I did not manage to get it. There is a lot of information turning around, all of which generate a great confusion . With respect to protein … is it really necessary to ingest for growth? I tell you that I do not consume anything … my food is similar to yours … low in carbohydrates … I would appreciate your opinion very much … thank you very much z

        • private avatar image

          Private  |  Norway

          Are you eating enough for muscle growth? And did you try heavier weights and less cardio ? Those are usually the first couple of things to consider if you are not gaining muscle mass. Are you gaining strength ? Or do you feel stuck in your workouts as well?

          It is absolutely possible to gain muscle and loose fat at the same time, but it is more difficult. Sometimes you have to gain a little bit all over and make sure you are resting and eating enough in between workouts to actually start gaining.

          You need some protein in your diet (legumes, beans, meat, eggs, dairy products ++) but supplementing with a protein powder is not necessary. Usually people use protein powder if they are training so much that they can´t get enough protein or energy through regular meals (like bodybuilders or athletes)

          Good luck with your gains 🙂

  3. private avatar image

    Private  |  Zagreb, Croatia

    I did lchf for two years. Everything was fine but i was constantly depressed. Then I moved to paleo and increased carb intake and was happy as usual. 🙂

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