For most of us, making time for a quality workout requires planning, re-arranging schedules and figuring out how and when to get to the gym each day. And that’s just getting to the gym. Once you’re at the gym you put maximum effort into your workout so you can achieve your goals. But did you know that what you do after the workout for a post-workout meal and recovery could be as or more important to your result than your actual workout?
Today I want to share what I recommend eating after a weight training and or weights/cardio combination workout so you can get maximum benefits from your hard work. Here’s an example of one of my recent strength training workouts:
1000 Meter Row easy
Set 1: High Reps
Wide Grip Pull-up (assisted)
Set 2: 10 Reps
Wide Cable Row with split stance
Dumbbell Shoulder Press on Stability Ball – single arm
Stability Ball Crunches
Stability Ball Tucks
Set 3: 8 Reps
Single Arm Sots Press w/kettlebell
Personally, after a workout like this I typically have a meal that combines protein, high glycemic carbs, and a small amount of healthy fat (ratios of 45-45-10 OR 40-40-20). I started having this type of post-workout meal years back when I learned how to balance my nutrition, workouts and lifestyle from a few trusted sources. My rationale for eating a post-workout meal like this is to facilitate two crucial parts of workout recovery and performance:
1) Replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen is the fuel stored in and used by muscles during workouts and replenishing this fuel is important for recovery and future performance. The high glycemic version of carbohydrates digest more easily, stimulates insulin and facilitates protein synthesis.
2) Facilitate protein synthesis – the rebuilding and repair of muscle tissues damaged (micro traumas from training) during workouts. Muscle cell proteins are broken down due to high intensity or prolonged exercise and protein synthesis is the recovery process on a microscopic level.
I’ve gotten great results using the rations I described but recently I’ve been doing some reading that indicates I might need to adjust my post workout meal ratios. Various articles I’ve read suggest that using a 2:1 or even 3:1 carb to protein ratio instead of my 1:1 carb to protein ratio are the ideal for post workout meals. From Breaking Muscle: “Research in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism has shown that ingesting protein (0.2-0.4g/kg) and a smaller amount of carbohydrates together (around 0.8g/kg) can”…stimulate an endogenous insulin release that actually replenishes glycogen stores. And in a separate study it was found that “at present, there is no evidence to support the claim that post-workout carbs in any ratio are needed for protein synthesis. Protein seems to be enough on its own.”
Based on this research and a few other articles I’ve read, an increase in carb to protein ration makes sense for replenishing muscle glycogen in a post-workout meal but is not necessary when it comes to protein synthesis.
But wait…I’m now telling you to add carbs to your diet when one of the most common things you’ll hear in the fitness industry is that carbs make you fat? Well, it’s true – they CAN…if your eating is out of balance. But when you consume healthy carbs, like non-processed starches and whole fruits the right way (and even “cheat” foods), you don’t have to worry about storing them as excess fat.
Eating in balance requires you to have general knowledge of how much of which type of nutrients you’ve eaten throughout the day. If you’ve overloaded on carbs all morning, you shouldn’t eat a high carb post-workout meal and if you plan to go eat a high carb dinner, stick with the 1:1 ratio after your workout. When you use this strategy, not only does it make your plan “sustainable” — it makes being lean so much easier. Good luck!
Did this article help you? If so, leave a comment and let me know!