In the previous article, we had a discussion on Pre-Workout Nutrition and its importance in muscle building.
Now, it’s time to answer the question, what should I eat after a workout?
That Whole Protein Turnover Process in Review
We can’t answer the question, what should I eat after a workout, without doing a recap of Protein Turnover, so…here we go.
As you already know, Protein Turnover consists of two processes, namely protein synthesis and protein breakdown.
When you perform any type of workout, the rate of protein synthesis goes down while you are exercising. But after you workout, both the rates of protein synthesis and protein breakdown start to go up, with the protein breakdown rates overtaking the rates of protein synthesis.
This scenario after a workout is exactly what you want to avoid because you will be losing muscle mass instead of gaining it.
This is where Post-Workout Nutrition comes in.
The Goals of Post-Workout Nutrition
If you want to build muscle, you need to prevent protein breakdown by providing the raw materials necessary for protein synthesis. This can be accomplished through Post-Workout Nutrition.
Post-Workout Nutrition has three main goals when it comes to proteins…
- To replenish the depleted glycogen, which are the energy stores of your muscles
- Reduce protein breakdown, in order to induce muscle hypertrophy so that you have an increase in both muscle size and quality
- Increase protein synthesis, so that any damaged muscles you have during your workout will be repaired.
But it’s not just proteins you need.
You also need carbohydrates.
Now, you are probably wondering why you would still need carbs when you’re already done with your workout and you don’t need the energy.
Heck, you’re probably too tired that what you just want to do is rest instead of getting that added fuel to do more.
Well, what you don’t know is that you need carbs in order to promote a larger release of insulin. What insulin does is that it aids in the transfer of carbs and amino acids into your muscles.
So, if you have a good supply of proteins to breakdown into amino acids, carbs and insulin, you are able to achieve a positive protein balance fast, resulting in the quick repair and building of muscle tissues.
Taking Advantage of the “Window of Opportunity”
Now, perhaps eating would be the last thing on your mind after working out. It’s quite understandable, given the fact that all the stress from your exercise causes the hunger center in your brain to shut down.
The problem is not eating those much-needed proteins and carbs after your workout will cause you to miss what scientists call the “Window of Opportunity.”
One study showed that eating proteins and carbs immediately after a workout allows for faster recovery than eating them one hour after a workout.
The same study showed that eating proteins and carbs one hour after a workout is better than eating them three hours after you exercise.
This simply means that waiting too long to eat will compromise your replenishment of glycogen and protein repair.
Needless to say, if you want to recover fast from your workout, you need to eat your proteins and carbs IMMEDIATELY AFTER or within an hour after your workout.
This brings us to our next question.
Just how much proteins and carbs should we eat? And how can we manage to eat when we don’t feel like eating at all?
Proteins You Should Eat After Your Workout
In the past, nutritionists are saying that it is best to eat whole foods after a workout. So what should I eat after a workout?
Unfortunately, many fitness enthusiasts find it very difficult to eat whole foods, mainly because they don’t have the appetite.
There is also the added problem that you need to eat 0.4 grams/kg body weight of protein after working out in order to attain a positive protein balance.
In order to get past the appetite problem, the best solution is to take LIQUID MEALS.
These are special liquid supplement formulas that contain fast-digesting protein hydrolysates (like whey hydrolysate and isolate) and carbs (usually dextrose and maltodextrin).
Whole foods take as much as two to three hours to be digested and the nutrients distributed to the muscles. In contrast, liquid meals take only 30 to 60 minutes to be absorbed and delivered to the muscles.
So, as you can see, liquid meals are the best foods to take immediately after your workout.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t eat whole foods. Outside of the “window of opportunity”, it is best that you continue eating proteins within three hours after your workout.
Great post-workout foods that you can eat are whole grain breakfast cereals, Greek yogurt, eggs, protein shakes, sandwich wraps, and fruits.
Carbohydrates You Should Eat After Your Workout
When it comes to carbs, what should I eat after a workout? You need to eat 0.8 grams/kg of body weight. This is sufficient to replenish the carbs in your muscles without the risk of gaining excess weight.
Also, at this value, you are able to reach the ideal insulin level of 15 to 30 mU/L. You can only achieve this insulin spike by eating low glycemic foods, because you need to speed up the delivery of proteins and carbs to your muscles for a quick recovery.
Great post-workout carbs include white rice, rice cakes, bananas, potatoes, and protein pancakes.
A Brief Word About Fats
Let’s talk about fats for a bit.
Ask any fitness trainer and they will tell you that eating fats after a workout is a big “no-no.”
Why is that?
Apparently, any post-workout foods you eat during your “window of opportunity” become ineffective when you eat fats along with it. This is because fat slows down the transit of the food into your stomach, so that you also slow down digestion and absorption of your proteins and carbs.
However, scientists have already shown that the speed of protein and carbohydrate digestion is not really that important as it was originally believed. The same applies to fats.
There is one study though that was conducted in 2006 which had very interesting results.
Here, the researchers grouped their test subjects so that one group drank fat-free milk while the other group drank whole milk after training. Regardless of the type of milk they drank, each participant drank the same number of calories.
While you would probably think that the fat-free milk drinkers have a greater advantage over those who drank whole milk, the results of the study surprised everyone.
Researchers found that the whole milk drinkers have a HIGHER NET PROTEIN BALANCE compared to the fat-free milk drinkers, and they have no explanation why this happened.
So what should I eat after a workout? Let’s do a quick rundown of the things you should know.
- Eat proteins and carbs immediately after or within three hours after you train.
- The best post-workout foods to eat are liquid meals rich in proteins and carbs, because they are digested and absorbed faster.
- You don’t need to avoid eating fats altogether. Just eat your recommended daily requirement of fats.
Now that you already know the answer to the question, what should I eat after a workout, you better be disciplined with your food intake so that you’ll achieve your fitness goals in no time!