Supersets. Low weight, high reps. High weight, low reps. Drop sets. You make sure to mix up your workout routine so you can see your muscles become stronger and more defined, but if you don't fuel properly after your workout, you might not see results. The post-workout meal is the most important meal of the day.
When you train with weights (especially heavy), your muscles get depleted of the stored form of carbohydrates (glycogen), which is the primary fuel for muscular contraction during lifting. Also, during the process of lifting, microtears occur in the muscle, causing a catabolic state (muscle wasting). This process sets the body up to rebuild and begin the growth process (anabolic).
What and When to Eat
Post-workout nutrition has three main goals:
- Replenish energy stores (glycogen)
- Repair muscle damage
- Build muscle tissue
There are two more factors that need to be considered in your post-workout meal:
- When to eat (window of opportunity)
- What to eat (fast- vs. slow-digesting foods)
The ideal time to consume your meal, known as "window of opportunity,” is when your muscles are primed and ready to accept nutrients to begin the recovery, repair and rebuilding process. We recommend that you consume your post-workout meal within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. This allows for the greatest amount of glycogen to be driven into the cells and protein to be delivered to your muscles, promoting an anabolic state.
However, what you choose to eat can also make a difference. Your ideal post-workout meal should have a combination of fast-digesting carbohydrates (e.g., glucose, dextrose) and fast-digesting protein (e.g., whey isolate) to deliver nutrients quickly into muscle cells. Aim for a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1 of carbs to protein and plenty of fluids. This is the time when a shaker bottle with a scoop of protein powder and dextrose powder with 16 to 20 ounces of water will come in handy. Liquid meals digest much more quickly than solid meals.
Limit fat in the post-workout meal because it is very slow to digest, which will hold up those fast-acting carbs and protein from being digested and absorbed in a timely fashion.
About one to two hours later, it's time for post-workout meal number two. This time, you'll want to focus on slow-digesting (real food) carbs and protein, such as oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, eggs, egg whites, chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish, beans. Aim for 0.15 to 0.25 grams of protein (per pound of body weight) and 0.25 to 0.4 grams of carbohydrates (per pound of body weight) at each of your two post-workout meals.
For a 140-pound female, a post-strength training meal would consist of 21 to 35 grams of protein and 35 to 56 grams of carbohydrates.
Second Post-workout Meal Ideas:
Breakfast Burrito: 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites, 1/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella + 2 Tbsp. salsa, ¼ cup black beans, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, 1 cup fresh strawberries
Nutritional Information: 466 Calories, 12 g Fat, 49 g Carbohydrates, 31 g Protein
3 ounces grilled chicken + 1 baked sweet potato with cinnamon + sautéed green beans with 2 tsp. extra virgin coconut oil
Nutritional Information: 380 Calories, 13 g Fat, 40 g Carbohydrates, 26 g Protein