As long as working out has been a thing, so has the post-workout meal. You’re told that you must eat after your workout or build less muscle mass, recover slower and achieve less.
Does this still hold true or is the post-workout meal now a thing of the past?
Then there are all the other questions too;
This article will explore these questions and more to give you a definitive answer on post-workout nutrition once and for all.
Post-workout nutrition is the food or drinks you eat after your workout and is usually consumed with 30 minutes to 3 hours after you’ve finished your workout. Post-workout nutrition has 3 functions;
The overall goal is to assist with recovery, encourage the growth or maintenance of lean muscle mass and restock your energy used during working out. Like with pre-workout nutrition, what you eat after your workout can be optimised to better suit your needs and your goals.
Your post-workout meal can be a solid meal or a protein shakedepending on your preferences, how busy you are and what you have available. As for what to eat, you want to get a good serving of protein and some carbohydrates.
In your post-workout meal protein helps to encourage muscle maintenance and growth. Whilst carbs help to restore levels of glycogen in the body after intense workouts.
As for fat, you can include some in your post-workout meal if you like but it doesn’t impact your recovery or muscle building potential like protein and carbs do.
The general consensus for post workout nutrition is to eat within 30 – 60 mins of your workout, getting at least a good dose of protein with the addition of carbohydrates if possible.
However, this timing is not set in stone and depends on the timing of your other meals and whether you had a pre-workout meal or not and if you’re going to train again later in the day.
Sensible guidelines are to have a post-workout meal if you either didn’t have a pre-workout meal or are going to train again later in the day. Otherwise, you can get away without a post-workout meal if you ate a pre-workout meal.
As for what you should eat or drink for this meal, I’ve got you covered there too.
Pulling together all the details we’ve talked about so far, here are you post-workout nutrition guidelines;
You can eat or drink your post-workout meal depending on what you prefer or what is most convenient.
The following foods make great options as meals or shake to get you fuelled up and ready to go.
Post-workout supplements, although not as plentiful as pre-workout ones are still an option when trying to get the most out of your training. As usual, it becomes a question of “do I need post-workout supplements?” and “if I want to take something what should I take?”
Let’s answer these questions.
Knowing that you need a good dose of protein after your workout to help maintain and build muscle mass, protein shakes are a no-brainer. They’re generally pretty cheap and come in a wide variety of flavours to suit all tastes.
Additionally, they can be bought with the addition of carbohydrates or mixed with fruit, oats and milk to provide a well-rounded post-workout meal.
Verdict: quick, convenient and fit for purpose protein shakes are a great choice for post-workout nutrition if you aren’t going to have a full meal or don’t have the time to make something else.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body which fuels intense activity like strength training. Supplementing with creatine ‘tops up’ your available stores and can increase strength and muscle mass. (2, 3, 4) It’s also completely safe to use and available cheaply. (5, 6, 7)
Verdict: creatine has varying effects on different people; it’s not essential but can help improve performance when used regularly. As it makes no difference when you take it, it can be included as part of post workout nutrition.
Branch chain amino acids or BCAAs as they are more commonly known, are a protein supplement that can be taken in powder or pill form to help prevent the breakdown of lean muscle mass when working out. (8, 9)
Their use as a supplement is largely thought to be useless when you include a pre workout meal or drink in your routine. However, there are some experts who recommend their use when training in a fasted state to help negate muscle breakdown.
Verdict: not necessary as part of your post workout supplement unless you trained fasted and will continue to fast post workout.
Not so much a supplement as a necessity, good hydration is fundamental to good health and performance. (10, 11) You want to stay hydrated throughout the day and make sure you’re hydrated before, during and after your workout for optimal performance and recovery. (12)
Verdict: drink your damn water.
It used to be that you had a set ‘window’ of time to eat in after you’d finished working out otherwise you wouldn’t get the full benefits of your training.
Yet current research shows this isn’t quite as clear cut as it used to be. (13) Researchers found that a post-workout meal was only needed if a pre-workout meal had not be eaten prior to working out. The study concluded that unless you were training again that same day or hadn’t eaten a pre workout meal then you did not need to a post-workout meal.
Overall, your total calorie and macro intake over the day is of much more importance than whether you have a post-workout meal. (14) If you’re looking for some post-workout nutrition guidelines, here they are;
Post-workout nutrition is important in helping you recover from workouts and maintain or build muscle mass. The usual recommendations are to get at least 30 – 40 grams of protein within 1 – 2 hours of working out.
If possible, it can also be beneficial to get 30 – 60 grams of carbs in your post-workout meal too. Particularly, if you’re training twice in the same day or didn’t have a pre-workout meal.
Post-workout supplements like creatine and protein shakes can be both convenient and beneficial but are not essential. However, hydration is a priority.