In How to Take Charge or your Pre-Workout Meal you learned what to eat before a workout. But what do you eat after a workout? From endurance athletes to muscle heads, drinking protein shakes post-workout has almost become an American past time in the fitness world. I believe it has become this way from 2 myths that made their way into the fitness world.
Myth 1: You have a magic window post workout where your body absorbs nutrients to repair and rebuild your muscles. If you miss the 20-60min magic window, your entire workout was wasted and your muscles won’t recover or rebuild.
Truth: There haven’t been any research studies on consuming post-workout protein on individuals who haven’t been fasting. Basically unless you wake up (after 8-12 hours of fasting) and go to the gym, you don’t need to down a big gulp of protein powder. The one exception to this is if you’re doing a 2nd workout later in the day (common in triathletes). In this situation you should consume a post workout meal simply to have the calories on board to fuel your workout later, while also allowing for gastric emptying of your stomach.
Myth 2: You should consume primarily protein post workout.
Truth: When you workout, you use energy, primarily energy that comes from your storage carbohydrates also known as glycogen. After finishing a workout, the goal is to replace that lost energy. Therefore, consuming carbohydrates should be your primary focus post-workout. Protein is important for repairing the muscles but shouldn’t be the only thing consumed post-workout.
WHAT TO EAT POST WORKOUT
Now that these myths have been busted we can tackle what to eat post workout. Basically, if you’ve been fasting or you’re doing a 2nd workout later, research shows anywhere from a 3-5 to 1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates within 60 minutes is the ideal post-workout meal. I recommend keeping it simple and not thinking too much about ratios. As long as you have a good amount of carbohydrates and a small amount of protein you’re probably within the ideal 3-5:1 carbohydrates to protein ratio.
Post-workout meal examples:
- Apple with a handful of almonds
- Fruit smoothie with a high quality protein powder, like Onnit Hemp Force
- Sweet potato with a tablespoon of almond butter
- A small piece of chicken with some rice
- A good quality protein bar, like Hammer, Rise, or Onnit
If you haven’t been fasting or aren’t doing a 2nd workout later, the ratios should remain the same. When you eat the meal really doesn’t matter. Even if you wait 4 hours to consume a meal after your workout your muscles will still repair and recover fully.
Anecdotally, I typically eat within an hour of finishing a workout simply because I’m hungry or its dinnertime for example. In fact sometimes I like to finish my workout just before a meal as a way of motivating me to workout, as if I have to “earn” my meal.
The bottom line is, have mostly carbs with a little bit of protein post workout. If you’ve been fasting or have another work lately try to consume your post workout meal within 60 minutes. Eat real food and keep it simple. Following these guidelines you will repair and recover your body from your workout and be ready for the next!