So, you just crushed your workout and you’re heading home to feast, what should you really eat?
Today, we’ll discuss precision nutrition in your post workout meal.
You just spent all that time working out at the gym. And now you’re fighting the urge to shovel everything you see into your mouth. How does this happen? Should you turn around and go back to the gym? Work through the hunger?
Nothing ruins that awesome calorie-burning session you just had quite like the wrong meal. In fact, you can do more harm than good with certain food choices.
So yes, potato chips and cheesesteaks can cancel out the positive effects of a good gym plan. You want foods that are going to make that workout worth the effort and really get the most out of it on your fitness journey. Your post workout meal is your first golden opportunity to get the very most out of your effort in the gym.
Eating the wrong foods after a workout jumpstarts an endless cycle. The more crap you eat, the more crap you crave. Eventually, it won’t matter how many hours you’re putting in at the gym – if you aren’t eating healthy, it won’t go anywhere. The same goes for getting enough sleep (you NEED 8 hours, more is even better). I repeat, if you don’t pursue precision fitness, you are leaving gains on the table. You aren’t going to see the results you’re working so hard for if you don’t fuel right. It goes without saying that this can take a massive toll on your confidence and motivation.
And before you know it, you’re sitting at home on a Friday night, crying into a bucket of ice cream, crying over The Notebook and wishing you had stuck to your goal. OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you get the idea.
What you eat before, during, and after your workout can play a huge role in everything from your recovery to your performance the next time you hit the gym.
Because your body handles nutrients differently depending on the time and level of activity surrounding your meal times, it’s critical to make sure you’re ingesting the right types of nutrients post workout.
And, since certain foods and nutrients can actually help you perform better at the gym (not to mention help your appearance), you want to make sure you’re getting what you need when you open your fridge.
So get ready to bypass the bread and cake. We’re here to give you what you need. And we’ll tell you now – it’s not going to be ice cream.
Post Workout Meal Basics
You want to accomplish three things with your post workout meal:
– Refresh your energy levels
– Increase the size and quality of your muscles
– Repair any damage that may have happened during your workout.
Why? Because you’re giving yourself a boost in performance and helping your body stay fit and healthy. Major plus – you’re also cutting back on the risk of injuries. And the right meal can help your body in so many ways, from your immune system to your muscle soreness the following day. Basically, you’re going to enable yourself to keep going to the gym and get slimmer, fitter, toner and stronger.
How it works: When you kill it at the gym, you’re also tearing and breaking down your tissue. But in a good way! Your tissues are being damaged at a micro level, which also means they need to be repaired at some point. And your after workout meal should be your refueling time. Think of this food as the recovery your body needs from going nuts at the gym. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
This cycle of repairing and rebuilding happens when older, weaker proteins are broken down and new proteins are built. During this time, any stored up carbohydrates are also used up. So when you’re working out, you’re literally draining every resource you have. Your post workout meal is the best chance you have to refuel and the highest absorption rate that your body will express at any time (except maybe if you’re literally starving). Now do you see why the whole recovery/refueling thing is so important? Keep reading!
Just think – you are not just using muscle, but you’re breaking it down to rebuild it stronger and bigger. And just like your brain tells you that you need rest and refueling, your tissues need the same—where do you think your brain gets the signal from?
Here’s the good news – according to recent studies, this whole trend can be reversed. How? With proper workout nutrition. You need to restore the protein and carbohydrates that you’ve used up. Basically, it’s time to start building up the good stuff again. And it’s a lot easier than you may think.
Post Workout Meal: Fueling Your Tank with The Good Stuff
Needless to say, your body can’t just pull proteins and carbs out of thin air. You need to supply yourself with these nutrients. After all, if they’re there, your body is going to use them, especially when it needs them!
You don’t want your body to have to beg for these nutrients, you also don’t want to have such a surplus that you end up with excess fat. So what do you do? Well, if you’re trying to gain, it’s essential to have a surplus of calories. If your body is in a deficit, that’s when injuries and total exhaustion come into the equation. You’re only hurting yourself by not refueling (and your body, of course).
And just by eating protein or carbs, you’re giving your body to go-ahead that it’s time to rebuild after a workout. Seriously. It’s that easy: Body, take nutrients. Use. Grow. The end.
So, in simple terms, you’re aiding in the availability of those essential nutrients. You’re the only one who can provide yourself with these needed nutrients. Don’t skip out! Fork it over!
Here’s how the whole deal works:
- You’re increasing blood flow to the skeletal muscles during and post exercise. That means these nutrients are going to move around a lot faster then if you were just sitting on the couch, shoveling a loaf of bread down your throat. You’ve already kick-started the process and your body is ready to go.
- You’re providing amino acids and glucose-filled blood supply both during and after the workout. So the rate in which your weaker protein burns off is a lot faster, too. That makes it even more important to replace these proteins.
You’re getting your circulation going and, because of that, you’ll get more nutrients in your blood. Got it? Awesome.
This is kind of a big deal. In fact, this amazing opportunity that occurs during and after the workout is lovingly deemed “the window of opportunity.”
And it’s exactly what it sounds like – this is the time to make a difference with your post workout nutrition. Your muscles are in a vulnerable state. They’re ready to take in any nutrients that can help them repair, grow and even strengthen. They’re going to be so starved and beaten to death from your killer workout, they will be literally soaking up anything you put in your body – so make sure it’s something good.
When is this window open, you might ask? As soon as you’ve finished your workout. And you’d better hurry – it doesn’t stay open for very long. While many studies show that the whole protein-repair cycle continues for more than 48 hours after you’ve finished your workout, you need to get these nutrients STAT.
The ideal refueling window? Studies show that within 2 hours of your workout is great, but within a half hour is even better.
If you give your body what it wants, your body will give you what you want – a ripped reflection in the mirror.
The best way to get this done is to plan ahead of time. By the time you get finished at the gym and head home, you could be delusional with hunger. And that’s when mistakes happen. Cheesecakes get eaten, whole turkeys get devoured, people lose limbs.
So plan ahead! Decide what you’re going to eat post workout before you go to the gym. This is the best time to get your healthy starches like sweet potato and brown rice into your diet. If you plan ahead, you won’t come home and make bad decisions during a feeding frenzy.
Here’s What to Avoid in Your Post Workout Meal
A lot of people are starving after a workout. And others … not so much. Whatever the case may be, at some point you’re going to get hungry. It might be an eat whatever enters your sights next kind of hunger.
Remember: Window of opportunity! Now is the time when your workout is really going to pay off. So put the cheeseburger (or innocent bystander) down and read on.
Now, you need to eat carbs to replace what you’ve lost. And you might want to turn that to a meal by itself. But that isn’t always the best idea. This is however the best time to consume carbs.
Here’s where you need to stay focused – for the FIRST thing you eat post workout, liquid nutrition is the easy way to go. I know, I know – when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. You want fries and a cheeseburger and bread and chips and maybe a salad thrown in there somewhere. You want something you can physically pick up with your hands and put in your mouth. You want to chew it and swallow it and keep going.
But when you make yourself a shake that’s full of carbs and proteins that digest quickly, you’re giving your body what it wants (see point above with mirror reference) and what it needs, and making this all available quickly. This is critical to make all that hard work at the gym pay off!
Added bonus: You’ve giving your body what it wants during that oh-so-special window we talked about. So you’re seriously making the most of your workout. Think of it as the final piece in the puzzle that is your overall health and wellness.
Look for a whey powder that contains ingredients like dextrose, glucose, maltodextrin and whey isolates.
All of these hard-to-say nutrients are essential to your body’s repair cycle. In fact, with their quick digestion and absorption, your body is going to respond better during and after your workouts.
Post Workout Nutrition Shake
So now you’ve got all the facts. And you’re ready to go. But you’re still got one question on your mind:
What’s the best protein shake to make?
So if you’re just taking Fluffy for a walk or helping a little old lady with her groceries, you don’t really need a recovery shake.
Save it for the intense workouts where you feel like you’ve truly accomplished something. Gardening or carrying groceries isn’t going to call for a stop drop and refuel.
Here’s what we recommend:
With hardcore workouts, you should be taking in about 30 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein. Mix these in 500 ml of water. Adding a banana helps provide your body with healthy fruit sugars that help in protein synthesis. A few stocks of kale provide the necessary vitamins and anti-oxidants. A tablespoon of coconut oil will add the essential fats your body needs.
If you don’t feel like waiting until you get home to drink a shake, don’t! Bring it with you and drink it during your workout. Just don’t spill it.
Here’s a checklist of those other items you might want to make sure find their way into your shake as well:
- Whey Isolates
When you’re looking to just lose body fat, tone it down a little bit. If you’re more than 200 pounds, stick with 15 grams of amino acids for every hour you train. If you’ve less than 200 pounds, you should be closer to 10 grams.
Wanna go the extra mile? We’re proud.
Let me simplify:
Couch + ingesting a workout drink (carbs and protein) while playing video games = Nothing much
Gym + killer workout + ingesting a workout drink (carbs and protein) = Some seriously good results.
When you’re reaching for the carbs, try to remember that the glucose absorbs significantly faster than fructose does.
Any solutions that are high in fructose aren’t the best choice – try and stay away from these if you can. These types of drinks have been connected back to serious problems, including gastrointestinal issues and higher levels of fatigue and cortisol post workout. And you’re trying to make yourself feel better, not worse here.
Do you feel well equipped? You should! Now you know how to make the most of your workout. And how important nutrients are to your recovery. So the next time you head to the gym, don’t forget the second piece of your workout – your post workout shake.
And remember that refueling is just as significant to your workout as, well, working out.
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