Sustainable nutrition is key, not only to any effective workout regime … but to a sane life.
If you’ve been here for a bit, you probably know Paulo and I eat a holistically healthy diet (meaning we don’t necessarily follow a certain diet trend like “Keto,” low carb, etc …) that includes a range of whole foods, with room for the occasional indulgence.
As flexible as we are within this framework, however, we do realize the importance of post-workout meals when it comes to recovery and growth! With tons of information out there, we get that “what to eat” for optimal results and recovery can quickly get confusing, so we decided to provide some clarity on optimal post-workout nutrition.
Why Your Post-Workout Meal Matters
The bottom line? Exercise is catabolic. When we move, especially with resistance, our muscles are damaged, resulting in tiny tears in the fibers. And, while this sounds horrible, it’s the necessary basis of muscle growth, as these tears rapidly grow back stronger and bigger.
However, this repair requires the right nutrients! If you’re eating a well-rounded diet in general, your body is likely able to repair itself from semi-regular exercise. But when you start training everyday and pushing your body, adequate nutrition after your workout becomes essential for repairing and growing more effectively.
This repair also extends to your ligaments, tendons, and even your cardiovascular and endocrine system. Each of these require amino acids from proteins, glucose from carbohydrates, and electrolytes to function optimally, and each are also utilized and/or burned through during intense workouts.
After your workout, your body attempts to start repairing your muscles and refueling your energy-providing glycogen stores. Eating the right combination of nutrients within 1-2 hours of your workout assists with this process, and has shown in studies to help reduce muscle loss, increase muscle protein synthesis (aka: growth), and boost recovery.
Specifically, eating protein post-workout has shown massive benefits for growth and recovery, with research showing just 20-40 grams can maximize recovery and growth.
Combining that protein with carbs further boosts your recovery benefits, maximizing both protein (muscle) synthesis and glycogen synthesis, as well as keeping your immune system functioning optimally (especially if you’re doing intense workouts daily).
This is why the most optimal post-workout meals are a combination of protein and carbs, and are consumed within what is called the “Window of Opportunity,” or when your body is most primed to use these nutrients for repair. The general consensus is that the sooner you can get your post-workout meal, the better, as the rate of muscle synthesis starts to drop around the two hour mark.
Many sites can get ultra-technical with this meal, providing exact protein-to-carb ratios, which is awesome if you’re an athlete or working to compete, but not absolutely crucial if you’re simply staying fit with daily workouts and striving to improve (not compete athletically).
We tend to take a more “averaged” approach to it, making sure we’re having a decent serving of carbs along with a serving of a protein source. For example, one of my favorite post-workout meals is:
- Oatmeal (1 serving)
- 1 scoop of Onnit Vanilla Whey Protein (save 10% using code: HANNAH here)
This is quick to whip up, but you can also prep meals ahead of time, combining simple ingredients like 4-5 ounces of turkey breast with a baked sweet potato, 1/2 cup of brown rice with chicken or fish, etc …
Remember: the key here is to make this sustainable! You don’t necessarily need to worry about exact ratios to reap benefits, so don’t let the thought of getting in the perfect post-workout meal add stress to your plate (sorry, had to use the pun!).
Eat to live and grow, keep this general combination of carbs to protein in mind, and you’ll be golden.
Oh, and P.S.: try out one of my favorite cereals at the moment over at Magic Spoon. They taste freaking amazing, without all of the added sugars and guilt! Use my code: HANNAHEDEN to save here.