Post-Workout Nutrition is Key
If you’re crushing it at the gym but ignoring post-workout nutrition, you’re missing out on a key element for muscle recovery (and so much more).
Maybe you just aren’t sure what to eat after training or when to eat it? The good news is that post-workout nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated.
Find out what to consume after training that will benefit your muscles the most.
Why is Post-Workout Nutrition So Important?
What you eat before, during and after a workout is important when it comes to improving body composition, recovery and performance. This goes for competitive athletes and recreational exercisers alike.
Why is it important? In general, post-workout nutrition helps with:
- Replenishing glycogen (aka: replenishing energy stores)
- Decreasing protein breakdown (aka: boosting muscle quality)
- Increasing protein synthesis (aka: repairing any damage caused by the training session)
Multiple studies have shown that optimal post-workout nutrition habits can be beneficial to improve recovery, decrease muscle soreness, boost ability to build muscle, support immune function, improve bone mass and increase the body’s ability to utilize body fat.
When you train hard, you’re breaking down and damaging tissues at the microlevel. The rebuilding process occurs after the workout through proper fuel and recovery strategies.
So, what should you eat after a workout?
When to Consumer Your Post-Workout Meal
You may have heard about the “window of opportunity” for post-workout meals This refers to the window of time that your muscles are primed and ready to accept nutrients so you can start the muscle repair, growth and strength process. Your muscles are hungry for fuel after a workout, this is referred to as the anabolic window.
This window “opens” right after your workout and then starts to close right away. Some research suggests that it’s most important to fit in a post-workout meal as soon as possible – but within 2 hours after.
This also depends on when your pre-workout meal was consumed. If, for example, you ate your pre-workout meal at 8am and did your workout out from 9-10am, you could eat that post-workout meal by noon and most likely be “fine.” However, if you ate your pre-workout meal at 6am or even 7am and then did your workout from 9-10am, you would definitely need to eat a post-workout meal within thirty minutes after your last rep.
That’s where shakes come in handy.
What to Eat Post-Workout to Optimize Recovery
The first thing that probably comes to mind is protein. And you’re partially right – protein is not the only concern here. When you exercise, stored carbohydrates get depleted. So, after a workout, our bodies require protein and carbohydrates.
- Protein aids in protein synthesis (how your muscles get stronger and bigger) and helps your body to begin repairing tissues. Whether you choose whey or a plant-based protein powder, studies show that 15-20 grams of protein consumed after a workout is typically enough to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. If you don’t supply enough amino acids through your diet, it could lead to a loss of muscle mass, decreased strength and negatively impact your performance.
- Carbohydrates help replace glycogen (and enhance the role of insulin in transporting nutrients into cells). In other words, it puts the gas back in the tank. Mix 30 grams of carbohydrates, like Vitargo, in approximately 500 ml of water to sip immediately after your workout. If you’re opting for whole foods, choose simple carbohydrates (fruit, oats, potatoes, etc.) that deliver glucose to your muscles more quickly than complex carbs.
Do You Need a Post-Workout Meal?
Post-workout meals are optimal for workouts lasting 45 minutes or longer. This includes: weight training, CrossFit or other high intensity workouts, and endurance training.
Active recovery or exercise like going for a walk or a casual bike ride, doesn’t require a recovery drink.
Keep in mind that a post-workout shake with carbohydrates and protein helps the body with recovery in such a way that can’t happen any other time of the day. In other words, if you miss your window of opportunity and drink the shake while lounging on the couch at night, it won’t have the same effect.
Nutrient Timing and Training Routine
Want to take another look at nutrient timing? Take a look at, “Nutrient Timing: What to Eat Before and After a Workout” for an overview of pre-, intra-, and post-workout nutrition strategies.
Keep in mind that a post-workout meal is just part of the equation. Your overall diet (yes, including nights and weekends) is the most important factor – regardless of your goals. For most individuals, eating a clean meal with whole foods within two hours after your workout is enough to support adequate recovery.
Do you need help figuring out pre and post-workout nutrition strategies? We have the nutrition strategies and accountability to help you keep your goals on track. Connect with a nutrition coach today for a free consultation.