One of my favorite scenes in a movie is in “End of Days”, when Arnold Schwarzenegger wakes up, sticks a pizza and whatever leftovers he can find around his kitchen into a blender whilst proclaiming “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” – Then of course, he necks the contents of the blender! Pure Genius..
But the great “Ahnullld” MIGHT have been wrong with that statement (blasphemy I know!) – Because he clearly overlooked post workout nutrition!
Don’t get me wrong. Breakfast is an extremely important meal to get your metabolism kick-started for the day and switch yourself from a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state into an anabolic state. You should never skimp on breakfast (a common mistake) but for any kind of athlete, fitness enthusiast, muscle builder or even the casual gym user, post workout nutrition IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY! (You can tell Arnold I said that too!).
Then why do so many people still neglect this most important meal?
Why is Post Workout Nutrition the Most Important Meal of the Day?
Picture this – You’ve just hit the gym pretty hard and had a tough session. You’re exhausted! What have you done? Well without getting to scientific, you’ve just depleted all of your glycogen (energy) stores. Now at this point your body is literally screaming at you for nutrition so that it can refuel your muscles with energy and start the recovery process.
If you’re using weights in your workouts, and everybody should be, you’ve also caused micro-tears and damage to your muscles. They will be begging you for a hit of fast protein to save them from utilizing their own protein stores (Your muscles feasting on themselves? Not a cool scenario if you’re hoping to build muscle)
What do most people do? Go and get changed, have a shower, chat to the cute chick on reception or the personal trainer for half hour, wait until they get home … put their feet up a bit … you get the picture. By the time they’ve eaten and refueled it’s too late. They’ve lost that important window of opportunity!
What SHOULD Everyone do for Post Workout Nutrition?
For post workout nutrition everybody should come prepared and carry a shaker bottle around with 25-30 grams of whey protein and around 50-75 grams of fast release, high GI carbs (these doses are approximate and should be dependent on lean weight) Ready to drink the INSTANT you finish your workout. <– IMPORTANT!
Some trainee’s will even also sip a protein/carb shake during their workout to ensure their glycogen and protein stores are always topped up – I personally also do this but reduce the protein and carbs for this shake.
Make sure you do not include any fats in your shake at this time. Fat will reduce the effectiveness of the shake by reducing the speed at which the protein and carbs are absorbed – Something that is counter-productive to what we want at this time!
When you get home you must then also eat a balanced meal as normal (All 3 macro-nutrients can now feature in this meal – Protein, carbs and fats)
Yes, these rules apply to you whether you’re a male or female, young or old, muscle building or burning fat (post workout carbs can and probably should be lowered for most people if this is your goal, especially in the last few weeks – experiment to see how you get on). The doses may also change depending on your weight and your body type but you can find out what works for you and make adjustments.
Important Note : I’ve heard so much nonsense recently from gym members and friends about “Oh I want to stay natural, these powders are cheating” – Really?? Do you drink milk? Whoops, looks like you’re a cheater then because milk contains whey..Do you eat packaged foods on the odd occasion? Eat cereals? There you go cheating again because you’ll find maltodextrin, dextrose and other forms of high GI carbs and sugars in those foods.
Get that “all powders are unnatural and bad” way of thinking out of your head because it’s an ignorant way of thinking – Most supplements suck, yes..but the ones you need for post workout nutrition are ESSENTIAL for your progress. Forego them at your own peril. I will however, look to find a vegan alternative to your protein shake if that is your preference – Watch this space..
Why Whey Protein?
Whey protein is one of the most bio-available proteins out there which means that your body can use it’s broad spectrum of amino acids for muscle repair..and quickly! Remember, you don’t want to waste time eating solid food, waiting for it to digest before supplying the muscles and most of us don’t have that appetite immediately after a workout.
Whey protein is the smart choice for your post workout protein because it’s the fastest acting. Pick yourself up a decent whey protein supplement without breaking the bank on expensive brands who make fancy claims about how much better their protein is. Whey is whey for the most part. My recommendation is below. You can’t go wrong with Optimum Nutrition. Click on a product for different flavors and sizes if you want something different from what’s below.
Mix your whey protein and your fast acting carbs with water and simply neck the mixture! Done! (There is a school of thought that taking the carbs and protein separately is better. If you subscribe to that then you’ll have to bring 2 shaker bottles – I personally am not convinced of the negligible difference separating them would make post-workout.)
Why Fast Acting Carbs and Which One is the Best?
Carbs are an important and often overlooked aspect of post workout nutrition. If people do use post workout nutrition then it’s usually just a protein shake. This is also a big mistake because you’re not replenishing your muscles energy stores and this will impede your recovery and progression in future workouts! “Won’t fast acting carbs make me fat in those amounts?” Maybe during the day when you’re inactive, yes – But not after a workout when your insulin will shuttle them straight into the place that your body needs them the most – Your glycogen stores. You can play with the dose of your carbs but the ratio will usually be around 1:2 with protein to carbs. See how your body responds..if you start getting overspill due to the high dosage and you gain body fat, try reducing the dose of your post workout carbs. Although I took my post workout carbs even when I was cutting down and still got pretty ripped. It’s hard to store fat immediately after an intense training session.
So Which Carbs?
I will dedicate an entire post to this debate but, again it’s a minor detail in my opinion. Just get one of these 4 forms of carbohydrates down your neck and you will be fine.
- Waxy Maize Starch
- Vitargo (barley)
The further down the list you go, the more expensive and apparently more effective the carbs are for post workout. The latest two releases are waxy maize and Vitargo (which is patented by one company making the price extortionate for a carb). These are based on having a molecular weight that allows them to pass through the stomach easier and apparently into the muscles much faster than ever before. Real world results? I haven’t seen any studies but I’m certain they are negligible when comparing the four. They all get the job done so just pick the cheapest or most available one – I never recommend wasting too much time or money on supplements. Your efforts are better utilized elsewhere!
So there it is – The simplest of meals but one that is ironically your most important of the day. Don’t forget to eat a solid, balanced meal within 1-2 hours after finishing your workout as well to make further use of this window of opportunity.
A recap on your post workout nutrition –
Shaker Bottle with/
- 25-40 grams of Whey protein
- 50-75 grams of fast acting carbs
- Mix w/ Water
Done! Enjoy and please leave your comments or questions below.