Post workout nutrition can be a confusing topic due to the controversy that surrounds it. This article will simplify post-workout nutrition and tell you exactly what to do.
You can also read my previous article on pre-workout nutrition.
Numerous studies show that eating after a workout helps improve muscle repair and recovery.
Regardless of whether you want to lose fat or build muscle, you should pay attention to this. I’d like to remind you not to get caught up post-workout nutrition and lose focus on daily caloric intake, which is more important.
In this article you’ll learn the importance of post workout nutrition, what you should eat after a workout when to eat and much more.
Why is post workout nutrition important?
Eating after a workout has proven to have some benefits which you may not want to miss out on. Here are the benefits of post-workout nutrition.
1. Suppresses protein breakdown and enhances protein synthesis.
After a workout, especially resistance training, your muscles tear and they need to be repaired through a process called protein synthesis. Eating right after exercise will help fasten protein synthesis which will help build muscles.
The relationship between muscle protein breakdown and protein synthesis determines muscle growth. A protein breakdown which is higher than muscle protein synthesis will lead to muscle loss and I’m sure nobody wants that.
A post-workout meal will help suppress muscle protein breakdown and enhance protein synthesis at the same time.
This study, which involved 6 untrained who took amino acid mixture during and after a leg resistance exercise routine, showed that their protein synthesis increased by 30% to 100% at rest.
2. Improves recovery
A well-timed post-workout meal can also help improve recovery and reduce pain and muscle soreness.
While it won’t instantly take away all the pain, it will reduce the healing period. It’s a common maxim that “no pain no gain”, but it doesn’t apply in all situations.
It’s important to differentiate normal pain and soreness from injuries and muscles that are too swollen (it’s not normal for muscles to be swollen for more than 4 days).
3. Replenish glycogen
Lastly, post workout meal helps replenish glycogen. During an intense workout, the body uses glycogen as fuel. Glycogen levels can go very low especially after a long intense workout. Eating carbs will restore the glycogen and keep you energetic throughout.
What should I eat after a workout?
After a workout, you should eat food that is rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Avoid fats because they will slow down the digestion of these foods.
This has nothing to do with the ‘fats make you fat’ theory, in fact, fats are good and we need them in our diet but not in post workout meal. Proteins and carbs will be digested faster if there are no fats involved.
Any whole food meal that contains proteins and carbs will do.
You need to eat proteins because they help enhance protein synthesis. While carbs help replace the glycogen used during the workout and aid the role of insulin in transporting nutrients into the cells.
Some may argue that you need to take protein shakes because of they easily digestible or else you will miss out on the window of opportunity since solid foods take longer to digest.
That’s not true at all!
The idea of having a small window of opportunity is a marketing scheme used by companies to sell post workout shakes.
Eating whole foods after a workout will give you the same results.
This study shows that protein synthetic rate stays elevated 4 hours after the workout; other studies even suggest a longer period.
Personally, I don’t think protein shakes are necessary; you’ll do just fine with whole foods. But you can take them if you don’t have time to prepare a meal after a workout, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for real food.
How much food should I eat?
For proteins, you should eat 0.15-0.25 grams per pound of your total body weight. So someone who weighs 150lbs should eat 22.5-37.5 grams of protein. This may vary depending on the intensity of the workout. You don’t need as much protein after a moderate cardio workout as you would after a high-intensity interval training workout.
On the other hand, you should consume carbs of 0.25-0.4 grams per pound of your body weight. If you weigh 200lbs, eat 50-80 grams of carbs after exercise. Again, the intensity of your workout will also be a factor.
Best meal ideas
I know some expect to hear protein shakes and other supplements, but I’m sorry to disappoint you. Trust me you’ll do just fine without them. And whole foods are always the best option.
Here are some of the foods you can eat after your workout.
Grilled chicken with potato and vegetables
Boiled eggs with berries
Chicken breast with mashed yam/ sweet potato
Lean beef and squash with marinara
Any lean protein with fast digesting carbs
Drink lots of water
How long should I wait before I eat?
Well, I came across different answers to this question when doing research on this topic. I’m sure you have heard of the “window of opportunity”, this refers to the time period you should eat after a workout in order to get the maximum benefits. This period may vary depending on whom you ask.
To get the maximum results and be on the safe side, I suggest you eat as soon as you can, try to keep it under an hour after the workout. Though some studies, like this one, suggest you have a window of up to 24 hours, while others say eating within an hour after the workout will have a major difference on the growth of muscles.
Eating right after the workout is the only way to know for sure you will get all the benefits. But don’t stress too much about it, it’s not a matter of life and death. Eating 30 minutes or an hour late will make little difference (or none) unless you are a high-performance athlete or training for Mr. Olympia.
In case you are not hungry after a workout, wait until your stomach can accommodate some food.
Eating after exercise will help boost the growth of muscles and improve recovery. And the sooner you eat after a workout the better.
Remember not to get caught up on post workout nutrition and end up losing focus on daily calorie intake. Post workout nutrition alone won’t help you build muscles or burn fat; it will only boost your results.
I know weight loss can be overwhelming and confusing with all the advice available. So if you are just starting out and you find this overwhelming, I would suggest you focus on the most important things like eating healthy foods, caloric intake and exercising regularly. Then you can give post workout nutrition more attention later.
I would like to hear from you. Do you eat right after your workout? Let me know if you have any experience with post-workout nutrition in the comments.[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]