Post-workout nutrition is one of the most important aspects of helping you make progress towards your fitness goals. Without it, you are robbing yourself of some SERIOUS progress.
But what are we supposed to eat after our workouts? Well, to answer that question, you have understand what is going on in our bodies after a workout is finished.
The Muscle Breakdown
During your workout, you are constantly placing stress on the muscles that you have been targeting during your training. As a result, your muscles have been broken down, and are in need of repair.
So, as you probably already knew, the most important factor in your post-workout nutrition is protein. This allows you to fuel your body with the resources it needs to build and repair muscle, in preparation for your next training session (which should include some form of increased stress, via progressive overload).
The best way to do this is with a whey protein shake, since it fills your body with high-quality, fast-acting protein. This will make an impact faster than any other form of protein, and is highly recommended for you right after your finish a workout. By doing so, you are taking advantage of the anabolic response your body is currently presenting.
Now, filling your body with protein right after your workout is great. However, it can still be improved.
How can this be done? Simple: it's time to combine protein with some carbohydrates.
Time to Carb Up
While carbohydrates have become the hated macronutrient in society, it is still widely known as an immensely beneficial nutrient to consume post-workout.
After intense exercise, it is known that your glycogen levels are also depleted. Re-filling these is important to give your muscles the energy they need, and carbohydrates are the perfect solution for this.
In fact, good carbohydrate and protein meals post-workout have been proven to increase the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise1. This is because it helps to create a positive insulin response, which is the hormone responsible for the anabolic response your body needs in order to increase in size and muscle mass.
Now, with this statement, the next question to inevitably come up will be, 'What type of carbs should I be taking in?'
The answer: You should be taking in a mix of complex and simple carbohydrates. One is meant to fuel your muscles as quickly as possible, while the other is meant to help give you some more energy for a few hours.
However, carbs are not THAT simple. You see, these are placed on the glycemic index, which is used to measure how the carbohydrates that you just consumed raise your blood sugar levels. When you look at this scale, you should take note of the high GI carbs, as these will have the biggest impact on your insulin levels. With this comes an improved anabolic response, which equals more potential for growth for you.
One source that is often talked about is adding dextrose into your PWO shake. Dextrose is a form of glucose that is found in some foods, such as honey and fruits. Studies on horses have shown that doses of dextrose upon completion of intense exercise helps to increase the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis2.
Other good options to include would be carbohydrates from fruits and oatmeal, as these are both additions that mix nicely into your post-workout shake.
Fuel for Gains
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you are consuming a good amount of fast-acting protein and carbs upon the completion of your workout. Doing so ensures that you are giving your body the proper fuel it needs to begin repairing NOW, when the potential is at its highest. Without doing so, you are just leaving yourself at risk of reducing your progress significantly.
- Zawadzki, K.M., B.B. Yaspelkis 3rd, and J.L. Ivy. "Carbohydrate-protein Complex Increases the Rate of Muscle Glycogen Storage after Exercise." Journal of Applied Physiology 72 (n.d.): 1854-859. Web.
- Davie, A.J., D.L. Evans, D.R. Hodgson, and R.J. Rose. "Effects of Intravenous Dextrose Infusion on Muscle Glycogen Resynthesis after Intense Exercise." Equine Veterinary Journal 27 (n.d.): 195-98. Web.