Your post-workout nutrition questions answered
Like many of our clients, you may often wonder how to nourish your body after a workout. What to eat after a workout is the question that we receive most often, so today, we’re going to give you the answer!
Often, clients wonder if they should grab a protein shake immediately after their workout is completed. Some have asked if they should slam some gummy bears or Starbursts. Many clients wonder if they can have a meal instead of a shake post-workout.
Why post-workout nutrition?
Before we get into the details of post-workout nutrition, let’s discuss why it’s important.
Post-workout nutrition matters because when we work out, we create tiny micro-tears in our muscles. This is how the body repairs itself, and muscles grow. Also, during a workout, we deplete our muscle glycogen stores—our body’s primary energy source.
Another thing that happens as we exercise is that we stress the body. Stress tends to increase our cortisol levels and puts our bodies into “break down” mode. We want to get our bodies out of “break down” mode and into “build up” mode as quickly as possible. A post-workout protein shake is great at this time because it will blunt the cortisol response and spike insulin.
The short answer to all of your questions is your favorite...IT DEPENDS.
While everyone’s post-workout nutrition will look slightly different depending on their goals, a few things remain the same regardless.
PRIORITIZE PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATES!
Consuming protein post-workout is going to keep those “feel good” hormones flowing. We recommend whey protein isolate because it doesn’t have the carbs and fats that slow down digestion. The isolate will digest quickly, spike your insulin, replenish glycogen, and shuttle protein directly to the muscle to start that repair and growth process.
Typically 20-30g of protein is sufficient for a post-workout shake or meal.
Whether you’re grabbing a shake or having a meal, we recommend that you opt for LEAN sources of protein post-workout. Some great options are:
- Whey Isolate
- Egg Whites
- White Fish
Consuming carbohydrates post-workout will help blunt the cortisol response and spike insulin to replenish glycogen stores and start that repair and growth process. After a workout, you’ll want fast-digesting carbs to create a higher insulin response in your body and replenish glycogen stores.
Choose foods that have a high Glycemic Index here, such as:
- Highly branched cyclic dextrin
- Gummy Bears
Typically a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs is recommended. Depending on your sport and the duration of your training, sometimes a 1:2 or a 1:3 ratio is more appropriate.
To shake, or not to shake.
Whether you opt for a post-workout shake or a meal will depend on your training, goals, and pre-workout meal.
A post-workout shake is the shake you drink typically within 30 minutes of completing your workout. The shake varies from individual to individual, but it’s typically made up of protein and carbohydrates.
A post-workout shake might be beneficial if:
- Doing HIIT, CrossFit, or resistance training
- Your goal is to put on muscle
- Your goal is to lose fat
- Your last meal was 3-4 hours before your training session
A post-workout meal is the meal you eat after your training session and ideally about 60-90 minutes after your shake. You don’t have to have a shake after training, though.
Your post-workout meal should be made up of protein and fast-digesting carbohydrates. We recommend little fiber and fats as these slow down digestion.
We recommend a post-workout meal if:
- You are going for a light jog or long walk (and we mean JOG, not a 5+ mile run at maximum speed!)
- Your goal is health and longevity
- Your last meal was 60-90 minutes before your training session
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE:
If you are new to training, don’t let post-workout nutrition overwhelm you. Stick to the basics—drink your water, get some movement, and eat high-quality meals.
You do NOT have to down a protein shake immediately after your last rep to make you don’t lose all your “gains.”