Besides “how do you pronounce your last name?” one of the questions I hear most often is “what should I eat after a workout?”
While there’s a common understanding that eating after a workout is important, there’s some confusion (and debate) about what we should be eating.
On one hand I see big beefy dudes at the gym fillin’ their shaker cups with whey protein and water (ew) immediately after a workout, and then on the other I see pictures on Instagram of post-workout carb fests.
Some proponents of flexible dieting say ice cream and Pop Tarts are perfectly acceptable post-workout fuelling options, while others say fat hinders the recovery process so you should not eat ANY for at least two hours after a workout.
With all this conflicting information, it’s just easier to eat nothing! Which is unfortunate, because you run the risk of hindering your recovery. There’s also the possibility of turning into a Hangry Monster. And the people in your life really don’t deserve that.
First, let’s determine what constitutes as a workout. For the purpose of this post, a workout is something lasting 20-30 minutes or more (depending on the intensity) that elevates your heart rate and makes your muscles feel like they’re doin’ some work. You’ll likely break a sweat, and this bout of activity is done for the sake of improving your fitness.
You’ll need to be honest with yourself on this one. While a brisk 20 minute walk might be a real workout for someone who’s just beginning their fitness journey, it’s not if you’re active on a regular basis and consider yourself to be fairly fit. Let’s be real here – you don’t need to refuel after a walk with a sushi feast.
Similarly, unless it’s to reward yourself for entering scary territory like behind the fridge or underneath the sink, cleaning your apartment doesn’t warrant post-workout cookies.
We clear on that? 😉
So – What Should You Eat After a Workout?
So now we know what qualifies as a workout – so what do we eat after? Just protein? Just carbs? A bit of both? Just fat?What should you eat after a workout?? via @arianafotinakis #postworkout #nutrition #fitnesstips Click To Tweet
There’s a huge emphasis put on post-workout protein, and for good reason. Protein helps our muscles repair from the work we put in. If you’re looking to build muscle, this is important. Wanting to lose weight? This is important. Trying to improve your athletic performance? This is important.
So it’s safe to say protein is pretty important.
Carbs, on the other hand, also have their role in post-workout recovery. Our bodies like to use carbs for energy – and they use a fair bit! During a workout, much of our stored glycogen is used to power us through our sweat fests. It’s important to ensure those carbs are replenished! You want to have energy to power you through the rest of your day, right? Being able to think clearly is really important 😉
Fats have been a bit demonized when it comes to post-workout nutrition. “FAT SLOWS THE RECOVERY PROCESS! YOU WILL LOSE ALL YOUR MUSCLES IF YOU EAT FAT RIGHT AFTER A WORKOUT!” Or something silly like that.
I’m not here to debate that today. Certain studies have shown that the effect of fat on post-workout protein and carbohydrate absorption is minimal (and I happen to agree), however to keep things simple, let’s just focus our efforts on consuming protein and carbohydrates.
How Much of Each Should You Eat?
…..It depends. Studies have shown that anywhere from 0.2-0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is optimal for the post-workout window (to get your weight in kg, divide your weight in lb by 2.2). If you’re training for endurance events, to build a little muscle, or to lose a little body fat, falling somewhere in the middle is generally safe. That’s assuming you’re consuming adequate protein throughout the rest of the day.
For the general fitness aficionado, it’s recommended that 0.8-1 gram of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight is consumed after a workout. A little on the lower side if you’re looking to shed some body fat, a little on the higher side if your main goal is to improve your athletic performance. If you’re training for a specific sport or event your carbohydrate needs will most likely be higher, so you should consult with a sports nutritionist to find your optimal amount! 🙂
To optimize your recovery, aim to get something in your body within 30 minutes. If you wait 31 minutes don’t worry – your hard work hasn’t gone to waste! But the sooner the better.
Some easy options include:
- A smoothie made with a banana or berries and protein powder
- A mixture of protein powder and fast-digesting carbohydrate supplements – you can find products like waxy maize powder and dextrose powder, which some athletes SWEAR by. I’ve never used these and, to be honest, they seem a little weird. I stick with a simple post-workout recovery smoothie.
- Protein pancakes
- Canned tuna mixed with some chopped veggies and nonfat greek yogurt with crackers on the side
Your perfect post-workout meal will depend on your goals and what you feel like eating after a workout. Can’t stomach the idea of tuna salad after an intense workout? Have a simple smoothie right after, then eat a full meal an hour later. So hungry you could eat your workout partner’s arm? Go for the protein pancakes!
Like I said, we’ve really just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to post-workout nutrition. If you’d like to discuss what your ideal post-workout meal would look like further, feel free to book a complimentary chat with me.
What’s your favourite way to refuel after a workout? Ever heard any funny post-workout nutrition myths you’d like to share??
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