We have heard over and over again how important nutrition is when it comes to realizing our fitness goals. But, the importance of post-workout nutrition is often a bit of an enigma for many. My philosophy with everything is to apply K.I.S. (Keep It Simple) whenever possible. Nutrition is one area that can be super confusing or fairly simple.
When it comes to post-workout nutrition, there are some basic facts to keep in mind:
- We deplete energy stores and create damage to our muscles during a bout of intense exercise.
- Our bodies are incredible creations and will repair the damage we do to them.
- In order for this repair to happen, we need to provide our bodies with the right building materials to get the job done.
So, what building materials do we need following a bout of intense exercise to set ourselves up for success? The K.I.S. answer is protein and carbohydrates. When we complete our bout of exercise, we leave in its wake depleted glycogen stores and broken down muscle tissue. Providing our bodies with ample amounts of protein and carbohydrates will send out the signal that it is time to start re-building. This sets in motion a miraculous chain of events, but that goes beyond the scope of this K.I.S. approach to post-workout feeding.
The following are the guidelines that I follow for my post-workout nutrition:
- Immediately following an intense workout, I recommend consuming around 40 grams of a liquid form of protein that contains a combination of whey protein and casein protein. The whey protein is rapidly absorbed by the body and the casein protein is slower to absorb. This combination will maximize protein synthesis.
- In addition to the protein combination, I recommend consuming 20-60 grams of a fast-digesting carbohydrate. Dextrose (glucose) is the simplest form of carbohydrate and is absorbed almost as quickly as it is consumed. Other forms of sugar, such as fructose, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, must be processed by the body and converted to glucose before the body can utilize it. For this reason, fruit, table sugar and candy containing high-fructose corn syrup are not good choices for post-workout carbohydrates. Consuming this fast- absorbing carbohydrate creates an insulin spike. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the cell allowing the glucose and amino acids in to replenish glycogen (the body’s stored energy source) and begin protein synthesis (muscle repair).
- Within an hour of having your post-workout shake, I recommend a low-fat, whole-food meal consisting of a lean protein source and a slower-absorbing carbohydrate. Depending on the time of day and your food preferences, this could be something like chicken breast and a vegetable or egg whites and oatmeal as an example. This will provide your body with additional protein and carbohydrates to keep the repair work going. It is important to make this meal low-fat since fat slows the absorption of nutrients by the gut. While an ample amount of healthy fat is important in your diet, you want to keep this meal as fat- free as possible.