Ever worked up an appetite after an intense workout and been left unsure what to eat immediately post-workout? We’ve all been there. This article will help you bypass the lengthy trial and error stage by guiding you through the best post-workout foods. By consuming the right nutrients post-workout, you can improve your body composition, performance, and overall recovery.
Spending time in the gym’s the easy part. What we eat outside the gym is what counts the most, especially when it comes to post-workout meals. Ignoring the importance of proper nutrition is a sure way to negate your health and fitness goals. Depending on our activity levels, our bodies deal with nutrients differently at different times throughout the day. The food we consume before, during, and especially after going to the gym is important for different reasons at these different stages.
Post-workout nutrition has three main purposes;
- Replenish glycogen to replenish your energy stores.
- Decrease protein breakdown by increasing muscle size and quality.
- Increase the rate of protein synthesis which repairs any damage to the muscles caused by the workout.
Working out ultimately damages our muscle tissues (so they grow back stronger) and uses our muscle fuel for energy. Whilst working out our damaged muscle proteins are broken down (protein breakdown) and we rebuild new ones (protein synthesis) – this is the process of building muscle. During workouts, your body is breaking down the muscle protein. To reverse the process, instigating protein synthesis and suppressing protein breakdown, you need to consume the right type of nutrients following exercise. Protein is required immediately post-workout to kickstart the protein synthesis process, however, it is not the only macronutrient needed. When we exercise we dig into our stored carbohydrates (our muscle glycogen) for energy, which can be substantially depleted. Subsequently, it can be beneficial to consume some high GI carbs following exercise. To kick-start the recovery process aim to consume these nutrients within 15-30 minutes following exercise. If that’s not possible, try not to go much longer than 2 hours post-workout before eating a meal.
What to eat post-workout?
Post-workout nutrition requires two things;
Protein for protein synthesis.
Carbohydrates for muscle glycogen replenishment.
Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. Simple and easily digested food options include;
- Make sure to stay hydrated and to replace the water that was lost during your workout.
- Consuming the right amount of carbs and protein after exercise is essential. It’s recommended that to eat 0.5 grams of protein per your weight (in kilograms), and 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per you weight (in kilograms) after training. (1)
|65kg Woman||120g Chicken Breast||1 Cup Brown Rice & 2 Medium Sweet Potatoes|
|80kg Man||150g Chicken Breast||1 Cup Brown Rice & 3 Medium Sweet Potatoes|
- If you don’t have time to consume a post-workout meal, try supplementing. 1 serving of a True Protein Whey Protein Isolate shake contains around 27.2 grams of protein per serve, making it a great way to begin your protein synthesis on the go.
- International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing.
Kerksick C1, et al. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-17.