If we want to reap the reward of our hard work in the gym, then prioritizing an appropriate post-workout meal is essential. This is especially true if you regularly train under resistance (hint, hint: lifting weights). As a certified strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist, I am constantly reinforcing the idea that post-workout nutrition is valuable for many reasons. These include:
- Replenishing glycogen. Translation: it replaces the energy that your body taps into (and thus depletes) when you work out.
- Decreasing muscle breakdown. Translation: it repairs tissue damage, aids in recovery and helps reduce soreness.
- Speeding up muscle protein synthesis. Translation: it promotes the creation of lean muscle tissue and supports body composition goals.
Before I lose you in the nutri-nerdiness of it all, let’s skip ahead to “the what.” You understand the basic need for a post-workout meal… but what’s it supposed to look like?
Simple: carbohydrates and protein.
Why? Carbs and protein are the macronutrients directly responsible for the glycogen restoration and muscle protein synthesis described above, respectively.
Carbs feed our energy stores, while protein feeds our muscles.
I also recommend limiting dietary fat in your post-workout meal, as it slows the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Ordinarily, this is one of fat’s most wonderful properties—it’s what keeps us satiated and fuller for longer! However, in the post-workout window, we want to be able to absorb our glycogen-replenishing carbs and muscle-supporting protein without interruption.
Struggling for post workout ideas? Here are a few examples:
- Shredded chicken and rice bowl
- Jerky and apple slices
- Egg white omelet with toast or a bagel
- Your favorite ONE Bar
- Deli turkey sandwich
- Oatmeal with your favorite protein powder mixed in
- Protein shake or frozen fruit smoothie (liquid post-workout shakes are great options for those of you who may not have much of an appetite following your workout)
As far as this elusive “post-workout window” goes, don’t stress too hard on this one. You may have heard somewhere that you HAVE to get your post-workout meal in within a millisecond of your workout ending (okay, I’m being dramatic… maybe it’s something like 15-30 minutes). However, you can slow your roll on this one. While it’s certainly beneficial to get down those nutrients immediately,
evidence supports that a longer 60-minute (give or take) window is perfectly sufficient.
So don’t feel like you have to slug a protein shake and choke down a banana as soon as your sweat session ends.
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