A Guide To What, When, And How Much To Eat Post Workout
No matter how many hours you spend at the gym, if you’re not giving your body the nutrients it needs after your workout, you simply aren’t going to reap the benefits.
Exercise kickstarts a remodeling process whereby existing muscle is broken down so that stronger, more functional muscles can be formed.
However, the only way to initiate this process is through replenishing stores of muscle glycogen, which become depleted during training. Where does that replenishment come from? It comes from consuming the proper amounts of carbohydrates and protein post-workout.
In a nutshell, there are three goals of post-workout nutrition:
1. Replenish energy stores
2. Repair muscle damage
3. Build muscle tissue
Keep reading to find out how to optimize your nutrition and achieve the above goals.
The best time to eat is 30-60 minutes after your workout.
The 30-60 minute period directly after your workout is known as the “window of opportunity.” This refers to the time during which your muscles are most ready to receive and absorb the nutrients needed to start that remodeling process mentioned above. Even if you delay refueling by a couple of hours, you’re doing yourself a big disservice. Once this window closes, protein synthesis and muscle glycogen storage decrease, meaning your body is not able to use the carbs and protein you’re giving it to the fullest.
Keep in mind that it’s also recommended to have another meal 1- 2 hours after that first one. This meal should consist of slower digesting carbohydrates, protein, and some fats. While your “meal” right after working out might be more like a large snack, this second one will likely be an actual meal.
Focus on consuming primarily carbohydrates and protein.
Another key factor of your post-workout refueling is what you’re eating. Consuming a combination of fast-digesting carbohydrates (such as glucose) and fast-digesting protein (such as whey) is the best way to help facilitate the transportation of nutrients into muscle cells quickly.
You’ll want to scale back the amount of fat you take in at this time since fat is slower to digest and will hinder those fast-digesting nutrients that are so crucial. Liquids are an ideal option here —perhaps even the best — since they are the easiest and quickest to digest. Nutrients in liquid form also have a higher absorption rate than nutrients that come from whole foods.
Contrary to popular belief, you should be taking in more carbs than protein post-workout.
Slamming back that whey protein shake immediately after squatting might look cool, but what looks even cooler is seeing actual results from your workout. In order to see all that hard work, the key is consuming enough carbohydrates. Ideally, you’ll consume more carbs than protein after an intense training session.
When you exercise intensely, you tap into your muscle glycogen (the body’s stored form of energy). To replenish those fuel stores and repair damaged tissue, we need carbohydrates. This is because carbs are the body’s main source of glycogen. Protein helps maximize this process, but it can’t happen without carbs.
A two to one ratio of carbohydrates to protein is ideal.
As mentioned above, you’ll want to keep fat intake to a minimum to make sure the carbs and protein you give your body after exercise are digested and absorbed smoothly. A simple 2:1 carb to protein ratio is an ideal way to structure your post-workout supplement/meal. However, if you want to get more specific the following is generally recommended (note, this may change slightly depending on what type of exercise you do):
Carbohydrates: .8g per 1kg of body weight
Protein: .2g-.4g per kg of bodyweight
A simple example of a post-workout nutrition plan could be to consume whey protein mixed with quick-digesting carbs (such as dextrose or maltodextrin) within an hour of finishing your training. Ath offers a great post-workout supplement that contains both the necessary protein and carbohydrates for recovery. Vitargo is another brand that makes a solid post-workout carbohydrate supplement.
Then, after you’ve completed your first refueling, you can consume a meal that’s something along the lines of grilled chicken, broccoli cooked with olive oil, and sweet potato.