Your selection of Nutrition Post Workout is a key decision that may significantly affect the overall benefits attained or not attained from that workout.
While overall daily nutritional make up is important, after exercise (post workout) your body is ready and waiting for specific nutrients. Muscle cells are hyper sensitive to insulin after your workout. Insulin is a key hormone that helps your body pass vital nutrients from the blood stream to the cells. The timing of getting those nutrients into place is critical.
It is often heard to generally stay with low glycemic foods. That is because they are sustained and slowed in their breakdown and delivered to the blood stream more slowly keeping hormonal spikes minimal and providing energy over a longer period of time. But, when timing is important, post workout, and we need nutrients delivered quickly simple carbohydrate foods can be a better option as it delivers the glycogen quicker and ultimately enhances the delivery of the amino acids found in protein.“Fast-digesting carbohydrates not only restore the muscle glycogen that was burned for fuel during training, but have the greatest impact on elevating insulin levels (anabolic hormone). When consumed with protein the result is greater amino acid uptake and protein synthesis.” – NSCA Performance Training Journal , Vol 11 Issue 6 “Eating and Resistance Training”
The timing of getting nutrition post workout to the body should be planned for before the workout even begins. Ideally, you are looking at a 30 minute window to make that first hit. Post workout you body remains in a catabolic state. Our goal here is to convert to an anabolic state as well as replenish our used glycogen. These two things encourage muscle repair and growth and ready our bodies more quickly for the next workout.
So, what should our nutrition mix look like post workout?
According to the NSCA’s Strength Training Journal Vol 34 Number 5 “Protein Requirements for Strength Training”, 1.5 g/kg body weight of carbohydrate and 20g of protein within 30 minutes post exercise. It is interesting that they suggest carbohydrate load based on body weight and yet have a set quantity of protein…
A 1998 (yep, even back then) article in “The International Journal of Sports Medicine” notes, that immediately after a workout is the best time to refill the muscles’ energy stores, and waiting two hours can decrease their ability to rapidly replenish these stores by 50 percent. John Ivy writes in “Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition” that avoiding food following your workout may actually decrease insulin sensitivity for the following 24 hours.
Benardot, Dan (2012-01-13). Advanced Sports Nutrition: Second Edition, lays out a bit more specifically and reflects the recommendations that I pass along (again very similar):
In a post-workout nutrition window (as soon as possible up to 2hr), consuming 25 grams to 40 grams of lean protein or whey protein powder, with two to four times that amount of simple carbohydrates, to ensure rapid delivery to the muscles will provide a better return on your investment in weight training. That equates to 100kcal to 160kcal of quality protein and 200 to 640 kcal from carbohydrate (50 to 160 grams) immediately after physical activity.
Event more recent… Review this short article from the NSCA on post workout consumption.
More is not necessarily better and while a protein / carbohydrate shake may be easier and absorbs quickly, it is also not necessarily better. I generally schedule my workouts just prior to lunch or dinner to take advantage of the timing and it allows me to keep the total calorie count more easily in check.
Keep in mind also that our bodies can only absorb so much of anything in one sitting. 40g of protein is around the top end of that maximal consumption possible. Additional is passed as waste.
And remember these post workout snacks count toward your total calorie intake for the day, so if weight loss is high on your goal list you definitely don’t want to over do it.
What’s your game plan for feeding your muscles post workout?