Why doesn’t sugar affect me after a workout?
It does affect you, but in a good way. Remember, every time you eat, carbs are broken down to their simplest form – sugar – then shuttled off to your muscles and liver to be stored until you need it. This stored sugar is called Glycogen. While you workout, you pull the glycogen from your muscles to get the energy for exercise. Even if your goal is to burn fat, glycogen must be present to burn fat. During a 45–60 minute bout of exercise, it is very possible that you will use all the glycogen that was stored in your muscles because the human body can only store between 200-500 grams of sugar or 800-2000 calories at a time. This is why we continually have to eat throughout the day – because we are constantly burning up what we bring in. In other words, in an average day, you burn up the calories that you eat in a day. Your metabolic rate is elevated during your meals and during and after your workout. Depending on the type, intensity and duration of exercise, your metabolic rate can be elevated for as much as 1 to 18 hours. Your body will want to try and keep this elevated metabolic rate and the only way of doing this is by refueling quickly. Keeping your metabolism humming keeps the fat-burning fires hot.
If you wait too long – an hour or longer after a workout to start the recovery process – it’s too late. Your body has already realized that you have decided to starve your muscle cells and your metabolic rate plummets like a stone. This, unfortunately, is the worse thing that could happen. Your brain still demands glucose, but you have used it all up. First, your brain looks in your digestive tract and if there is no glucose available it goes after muscle; you heard me – muscle! You are probably thinking that it would go after fat, but your body will hold onto fat because it believes it is starving and fat is its long-term survival plan and it will fight to preserve it. Chemically, muscle is converted much easier into glucose than fat is, so it is muscle that begins breaking down to maintain your metabolism. This of course over time makes it harder and harder to burn fat because muscle is what drives your metabolic rate – the less of it that you have the slower your metabolism. Folks who are 35 years old will begin losing 3–5% of their muscle naturally every year if they don’t do weight resistance training to counter balance this natural phenomenon.