Ultimately, the post-workout “window” is only significant to those who have mastered their pre- and intra-workout nutrition. Once you have this down then you will want to focus on what comes after the workout.
Supplements are beneficial for timing and convenience, but don’t be fooled that they’re your only options. Eating a solid meal has shown to be just as beneficial.
When Is Post-Workout Nutrition Helpful?
Generally you don’t need to worry so much about the exact amount of protein and carbs you get so long as you manage to have something after your workout you will benefit from improved recovery. That being said, for those who want to take their training to the next level and need every advantage possible, pay attention to the details outlined below for calculating the amounts of carbs and protein you need with the proper timing post-workout.
The PRIMARY GOALS of the post-workout meal are to accomplish the following:
- Replenish glycogen that was used during the workout (stored carbohydrate)
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (muscle repair)
- Reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism)
- Reducing muscle soreness and fatigue
There are THREE KEY COMPONENTS to the post-training meal:
For fat loss follow a 1:1 Carbs to Protein ratio or 2:1 if the workout was intense or you fasted beforehand.
For those seeking to gain muscle, with a workout session beyond 60 minutes you could go with the same pre-workout ratio of 3:1.
Meal Timing for Post-Workout
A general rule for protein is 0.3-0.5g/kg lean mass. Knowing your body fat percentage, simply subtract that from your total weight to get your remaining lean body mass.
So, if you weigh 185 lbs, that is 25-42g of Protein post-workout
1:1 → 25-42g Carbs : 25-42g Protein
2:1 → 50-84g Carbs : 25-42g Protein
3:1 → 75-126g Carbs : 25-42g Protein
The POST-workout meal is all about replenishing what was lost during the workout to maximize the recovery process. The difference here from the pre-training meal is to consume fast digesting protein and carbs immediately after the workout; or within 45 minutes time.
Eat your post-workout meal within the first 45 minutes and do not wait longer than 90 minutes to yield all of the benefits. a 50% reduction in glycogen synthesis could occur beyond a 2 hour period.
Food Options for Post-Workout
The primary goal after your workout is to supply the body with the right combination of nutrients to maximize recovery from the workout. Choose some of the following foods that are easily digested:
- Sweet potatoes (or white)
- Rice or Rice cakes
- Fruits (pineapple, kiwi, mango, watermelon or cherries)
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whey or plant-based protein powders
- Greek yogurt
- Protein Bar
Post-Workout Meal Ideas
Ideas for quick and easy meals include:
- Protein shake with dextrose powder
- Protein smoothie (with fruit)
- Protein shake with piece of fruit
- Chicken or fish with rice and vegetables
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Protein pancake
- Rice cakes with peanut butter
- Oatmeal, protein powder and fruit
- Tuna and crackers
You have many other options available, or any combination of the above if you can’t get all of your post-workout needs within 1 meal.
Example, immediately after training consume a protein shake with a piece of fruit… then within the next 60-90 minutes eat a meal of chicken, rice, and vegetables.
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Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Jan 29;10(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-10-5. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23360586
Poole C, Wilborn C, Taylor L, Kerksick C. (2010). The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis. J Sports Sci Med. 2010 Sep 1;9(3):354-63. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24149627
Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8. Accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28642676