The Post-Workout Meal: The most important meal of the day. Whether your interest lies in losing fat, adding lean muscle, or a combination of both, the Post-Workout Meal is the most significant to making changes. Here’s a few key points:
FEED THE MACHINE
Because you get results as much in the kitchen as in the gym knowing what to eat before and after exercise is essential. Whether your doing endurance training, strength training, or circuit training, micro-tears occur in our muscles when we rigorously exercise. It’s crucial that our body get the right kind of materials to repair these tears in order for them to rebuild torn muscle fibers into leaner, stronger muscle.
ANABOLIC v. CATABOLIC
The two most important words following your workout are Anabolic and Catabolic. Simply put, this refers to the building of lean muscle or the breaking down of lean muscle. Your body must replenish itself somehow, and if we wait too long following a workout to eat, it will find those much needed proteins and carbohydrates within our own muscle fibers. So, how long after a workout should we eat?
THE WINDOW: 90 BUT REALLY 30!
The “4 Hour Window” I mentioned in the Pre-Workout Meal article includes the 90 min following your workout. It’s during this window of time that your body is in major replace & repair mode, and it scrambles to start the process. The sooner you can eat following your workout the better. Wait too long and your body begins catabolism in which it begins breaking down your muscle for fuel. As a rule, the sooner the better. There is that 90-minute window of time but I try to always shoot for under 30 minutes, and just as important is taking in foods that don’t take a long period of time to digest. Which brings us to the next point...
No, I’m not advocating a happy meal as the ultimate post-workout meal. What we do want is foods that are fast to digest. Whole foods such as egg whites, chicken, & tuna are great but not necessarily the fastest to digest. Liquid sources of protein, such as a whey protein drink or shake is much quicker for our body to utilize following strenuous exercise. The same goes for carbs...more on that in a moment.
GOOD CARBS / BAD CARBS
Speaking of which, carbohydrates are important following our workout to replenish the glycogen ( stored energy ) that our body uses up during activity. We all have heard the phrase “good carbs”, “bad carbs”. Believe it or not, this is the one time where eating ‘bad carbs’ can be beneficial. Good carbs (whole grain breads, brown rice, etc. ) contain fiber which slows down digestion - this is good every other time of day, but not following your workout. Bad carbs spike our insulin which rushes nutrients to our blood quickly. “What? Eat bad carbs??” Actually yes! Simple carbs are quicker to digest, increases your sugar level which help protein to be digested quicker. Just don’t go Sugar crazy! It’s also important to point out that in this day and age of scientific sports drinks, all research continues to show that the best post-recovery drink for replacing key nutrients and vitamins is still plain ol’ Milk, just make sure that it’s skim so that you’re not taking in fat. Healthy fats are important to get throughout the day, just not following a workout. Why? Well read on...
BYPASS THE FAT
For every meal of the day, and including the Pre-Workout Meal, we always emphasize the importance of a balanced meal containing Protein, Carbs, & Healthy Fats. But the Post-Workout Meal is the one meal where we don’t want a source of healthy fats. Fats slow down the digestion of proteins and carbs, and the faster our body can utilize the proteins & carbs we’re eating the better results we’ll have from workout.
The key element in the Post-Workout Meal is that we want to refuel our body so that we maximize the results of our workout.
SAMPLE POST-WORKOUT MEALS
- Whey Protein + 6 - 8 oz of Skim Milk
- Sandwiches on Whole-Grain bread
- Fruit Smoothie + scoop of Whey Protein
( even good to add a few grams of sugar into it )
- Low Fat Yogurt + Fruit
- Bread Sticks + Cheese
- Pasta + Garlic Bread + Salad
- Grilled or Baked Chicken + Rice or Pasta
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