Tuesday Training: What To Eat After a Workout
Last week we covered what to eat before a workout. This week we’ll talk about what you should eat after your workout or competition.
Just like pre-workout nutrition, there is no “one size fits all” post-workout nutrition plan. Everyone has different goals and participates in various durations and intensities of activities. That means someone who is slim, healthy and just ran a bunch of sprints should have a different post-workout meal than someone who is a bit overweight, looking to shed a few pounds and just completed a heavy lifting session.
But don’t worry, this article will help you sort out the best post workout nutrition for you and your goals.
If you would like a personalized nutrition plan, it’s always best to see a nutritionist so they can work with your individual goals.
We all have one thing in common no matter what type of intense workout you just completed: optimum recovery.
We all need optimum recovery because intense workouts and training are extremely taxing on the body. High intensity activity leaves your glycogen stores empty, muscle and connective tissue damaged and central nervous system fatigued.
So the goal of the post workout meal is to get proper nutrients to your muscles and body so you can optimize and speed up the recovery process.
Ideally you should eat your post workout meal right after your workout. The sooner the better and within 15 minutes is the absolute ideal time to optimize the repair process. You have a limited window of time, 15-30 minutes, when your muscles are primed to rapidly absorb the proper nutrition needed to nourish and repair damaged tissue.
Everyone should be consuming protein within thirty minutes of high intense or long duration workouts or competition to repair your muscles and connective tissue. BCAA’s or Branched Chain Amino Acids are crucial for rapid recovery and decreased inflammation after training. Foods that contain high levels of protein and BCAA’s are chicken, beef, seafood and other meats.
You also want to consume foods that are easily digestible so your muscles can get the nutrients they need as quickly as possible. After an exceptionally grueling workout, I cannot muster the stomach to eat solid food, so liquid is my go-to choice. I will always pick real food when I have the option (and you should, too!), but I am also a fan of a good, high quality protein shake after workouts. THIS is my recipe for homemade protein shake without using protein powder.
Good post-workout protein options:
High quality beef jerky
Packets of tuna or salmon
High quality deli meats
High quality protein shake (THIS is my favorite homemade one!)
What NOT to eat post workout:
Do not consume fats right after a workout. Fat slows nutrient absorption. Right after a high intensity workout is a time when your muscles need nutrients right away so fats should be avoided.
Fruits high in fructose are also not ideal to consume post workout. The fructose from fruit goes to replenish the liver glycogen first, not the muscle glycogen. But after a workout, it’s the muscle glycogen that needs refilled right away. There are better carbohydrate options for you if you need to replenish muscle glycogen. These options are starchy nutrient dense vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, or squash.
To consume carbs or not?
This is where it gets tricky. I’m going to break this down and you need to pick the area that best reflects you, your training and your goals. Be honest with yourself. And remember, the post workout meal should be considered an “extra” bonus meal in addition to your 3 other meals a day.
If you are overweight: it’s not in your best interest to consume carbs post-workout. You have enough calories stored in your body already and adding a big dose of extra carbs post-workout is not a good idea. You should be consuming protein only for your “extra” meal.
If you want to gain weight/muscle: If you are looking to gain weight, you definitely want to include a large portion of nutrient dense carbs in your post workout meal. Great options are sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash and low fructose fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
If you want to maintain weight: Unless you did a super intense workout (all out effort, can’t get sentences out) or very long in duration (running, bike riding or other cardio for over an hour), your glycogen stores are probably ok and don’t need refueling with carbohydrates. If you did a super intense workout or long duration workout, be sure to include a portion of nutrient dense starchy carbohydrates like sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash.
If you are very fit, muscular, undergoing athletic training: you will want to replenish your glycogen stores even after short duration exercise just to maintain performance levels and muscle mass. Make sure to consume high quality, nutrient dense starchy carbohydrates like sweet potato, pumpkin, squash and low fructose fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Good nutrient dense carbohydrate options:
Sweet potato mash
Organic baby food
Butternut squash or any forms of squash
It’s also very important to stay well hydrated! Water and coconut water are excellent options pre, during and post workout.
What are your favorite post workout meals? What have you seen the best results with? Talk to me 🙂