If you workout, there is a good chance that you put a ton of effort into them and are constantly on the lookout for ways that you can perform better and reach your goals even faster. There is also a good chance that you have put a lot more thought into planning your pre-workout meals, as opposed to your post-workout meals. With that being said, just know that getting the right amount of nutrients after your workout is equally as important as what you are eating before them.
Eating Post-Workout Is Very Important
To really understand exactly how eating the right type of food can help you achieve your goals after exercising, you must first understand how exercise affects your body. When you workout, your muscles are using up all of their glycogen stores as their fuel. This means that your muscles are going to be temporarily depleted of their glycogen. On top of this, there are also going to be some proteins within your muscles that get damaged and broken down.
Once your workout is over, your body goes to work trying to replenish the glycogen stores, as well as regrow and repair the damaged muscle proteins. When you eat the right combination of nutrients after your workout, you can greatly enhance your body’s ability to do this. For this reason, it is very important to include protein and carbohydrates in your post-workout meal.
This will help your body to:
- Increase your muscle protein synthesis (helps to improve your growth)
- Enhances recovery
- Decreases your muscle’s protein breakdown
- Helps restore glycogen stores
Essentially, when you give your body the nutrients that it needs after your workout is over, you are going to be helping your body rebuild muscle proteins, replenish glycogen stores, and even stimulate the growth of new muscles. Now that you know what happens to your body when you workout, what should you eat after your workout?
Protein, Carbohydrates, And Fats
When you do eat your post-workout meal, you are going to want it to be composed of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. When you do this, your body’s post-workout recovery process is going to be much faster and more efficient. Here is how much of each macronutrient you are going to want to eat.
- Protein Helps Build and Repair Muscle
As mentioned earlier, when you exercise, you are essentially breaking down muscle proteins. How fast the proteins are broken down is going to depend upon the level of which you are training, but all workouts are going to cause muscle protein breakdown.
When you eat the right amount of protein rich food after your workout is over, you will be giving yourself the essential amino acids required to rebuild and repair these proteins. On top of this, it will also give your body everything that it needs in order to build brand new muscle tissue as well.
The amount of protein that is recommended you eat is between .14-.23 grams of for each pound of body weight. You are going to want to eat the protein as soon as you can once your workout is over. There have been studies done that show consuming between 20 and 40 grams of protein is going to maximize your body’s ability quickly recover after you have finished exercising.
- Carbohydrates Help You Recover Faster
When you exercise, your body uses its stored glycogen as fuel. When you eat carbohydrates after your workout, you are going to help your body to replace replenish that glycogen. While the amount of glycogen that your body uses is 100% dependent upon they type of activity that you are doing, there are certain types of exercise that are going to use more glycogen than others. For example, if you do some type of endurance training, you are going to use much more glycogen than when you do resistance training.
It is this reason that if you are involved with some type of endurance sport such as swimming, running, etc., you may need to eat more carbohydrates than even a bodybuilder. So how many carbohydrates should you be consuming after your workout you ask?
You should eat between .5 and .7 grams of carbohydrates for each pound of your body weight within roughly the first 30 minutes after your workout is over. If you do this, you will be providing your body with the proper glycogen resynthesis that it needs. As if that weren’t enough, your insulin secretion is going to be better stimulated when you consume both carbohydrates and protein at the same time. And just in case you weren’t aware, insulin secretion helps to promote your body’s glycogen synthesis.
So essentially, when you consume both carbohydrates and protein after your workouts, you are going to be maximizing your body’s ability to do both, protein synthesis, as well as glycogen synthesis. You should try to eat a ratio of 3 to 1 (carbohydrates to protein). An example of this would be 40 grams of protein with 60 grams of carbohydrates.
On a side note, if you exercise more often you are going to want to make sure and eat your carbohydrates. However, if you space your workouts out and have a day or two of rest in between each one, this is not as important and isn’t really a factor.
- Fat Is Your Friend
Fat has unfortunately gotten a bad rep over the past several years. While many people think that if they eat fat after their workout they will be slowing their digestion down and inhibiting their body’s ability to absorb nutrients, they would be wrong. While fat may slow down your ability to absorb nutrients after your workout, it actually does not reduce any of the benefits at all.
For example, a study was done with whole milk that revealed it was much more effective in promoting your muscle growth when taken after a workout was over when compared to skim milk.
With this being said, you may want to limit the amount of fat that you consume when you are finished with your workouts, however, incorporating some fat into your post-workout meal is not going to have any type of negative affect on your body’s recovery.
Timing Your Post-Workout Meal
Once you have completed your workout, your body is going to be able to rebuild its glycogen and protein much more effectively than if you have not exercised. Because of this you are going to want to consume a meal that consists of carbohydrates and proteins as soon as you are able to.
While the timing does not need to be on an exact timeline, it is recommended that you do get your post-workout meal eaten within the first 45 minutes after your workout. The reason for this is because any delay in your body getting the carbs and protein that it needs to rebuild can be delayed by up to 50% when not consumed within two hours after your workout is over. However, if you had a pre-workout meal prior to your workout, it is highly likely that those benefits would carry over even after you got done working out.
Essentially you are going to want to make sure and eat your post-workout meal within the first 45 minutes of finishing your workout. But if you did eat a pre-workout meal, you can potentially extend that eat window out to be a little longer.
Eat This After Your Workout
The main goal of eating a post-workout meal is to essentially give your body all the nutrients that it needs in order to recover effectively and maximize all the benefits of your workout. This is why eating foods that are easier to digest is ideal, as it will aid your body to absorb the nutrients that much faster.
Here is a list of simple foods that are quickly digested when eaten:
- Chocolate milk
- Fruits such as berries, kiwi, banana, and pineapple
- Dark, leafy greens and vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Rice cakes
- Oatmeal (not instant)
- Protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Protein bars
- Cottage cheese
- Trail mix
- Nut butters
Always Drink Lots Of Water
While your post-workout meal is important, there is nothing more important than making sure that you are drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout. When your body is properly hydrated, you are essentially making sure that your body is optimized to achieve maximal results.
When you are exercising you are going to lose both electrolytes and water through your sweat. When you replenish these after your workout is over, you are going to be helping with your body’s ability to recover, as well as its performance.
At the end of the day, your post-workout meal should contain carbohydrates and protein at about a 3 to 1 ratio. If you can do this on a consistent basis, you will give your body everything it needs in order to maximize its protein synthesis, recover faster and even enhance your performance when you workout next.
If you are not able to eat your post-workout meal within the first 45 minutes, try your best to do so within the first 2 hours in order to not lose the extra benefits of your workout.