What am I supposed to eat after a workout and in what time frame do I have to eat it? I can’t tell you how many times I get asked this question or something like it each day. Nutrition timing for weight lifters post workout is an extremely hot topic in the fitness world. Every joker in the gym will tell you they know the exact formula to making big gains after the grind. Like most things, I do believe that there is a variable of personal preference and different body types to consider when deciding what and when to eat to optimize your pumping iron efforts. There are a few things that you may want to mull over as you figure out what is best for you personally. I laid out a few key notes below that should help you on that self exploration.
We all get bogged down and being busy, which inevitably comes with forgetting things. With that in mind, while there isn’t any substantial research that shows a precise time frame to hit the lusted after anabolic window. Most lifters do find it best to get their post workout nutrition in immediately following their lifting session however. Foremost, to assure that they actually consume it and secondly to help them ‘feel’ recovered. For instance, if you’re beasting through your sets during a heavy 60-90 minute session, you may find you need something after just so you can survive the walk through the parking lot. We all know that hypertrophy can only occur when muscle synthesis is greater than muscle breakdown. Being in a state of hyperaminoacidemia will help facilitate that anabolic process to ensure that you are making gains and not just tearing your body apart. In short, post workout protein is non-negotiable for intense lifters, and sticking to the 30 minute post lift protein ingestion will -in my opinion- help assure you get the full 11% of the ingested amino acids to aid in protein synthesis. The quality of that protein is of upmost importance in order to get the best return within your caloric load. Never scrimping on protein quality is a rule that runs across the board. Whether you are consuming meat, egg albumin, whey, casein, or plant based protein, make sure it is sourced naturally, as “clean” as possible, and processed in a manner that maximizes the proteins bioavailability. And let’s not forget the importance of adding your high standard post complex carbohydrate to facilitate your protein uptake.
Protein– The recommended post lifting protein intake is 0.2g/kg of body weight. However, there is a minimum leucine and amino acid blood level in order to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis process. There is also the muscle full effect to consider as well to assure that you are actually absorbing what you’re consuming. So a little will not do and too much is a waste -and in overly abundant quantities, metabolizing all that can be super stressing on your body over time. I know many clients that I have go by the saying, “well if a little is good then a shit ton is better”, and that just isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to protein absorption. Once you’ve hit your max serving of post workout protein, your body will have a refractory period in which your muscles will not absorb additional protein. Meaning, don’t lallygag getting it down, your body needs time to break it down, thats why you don’t see tiny umbrellas in protein shakes at the gym while people sip them poolside. And don’t do yourself a disservice by eating 8, 80g protein shakes a day. Depending on the protein source, lifters weight, and age – the average serving of protein can range anywhere between 20-40g per serving max. Spreading those servings throughout the day in 4 hours intervals, should provide enough of a split to get full absorption.
Carbs- Consume high GI carbs with your post workout protein immediately following exercise. Generally you want to aim for approximately 1g/kg body weight.
Fats- Healthy fats are a great addition to a weight lifters nutritional program. Eating fats post workout however is consequently not the best time. It will slow the digestion process and therefor hinder time efficient post protein and mineral absorption. There will be other meals that will are better suited for you to consume your monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated omegas etc. You can read more about that in the “Meal Frequency and Scheduling” article.
Micros– Antioxidants are a great addition to support your post workout protein uptake and can be consumed within a reasonable amount of time post lift. Remember to always get over the RDA of potassium, iron, chromium and zinc -within reason- because of the serious strain placed on a lifters body these added vitamins and minerals are of grave importance to help the body adequately recover.
And of course make sure to get your full requirement of calcium and magnesium. If you choose to supplement these particular minerals, I find its best to take them just before bed to help you relax.
And you’re done!
The body is well fueled and ready for another run through the mill. For more in depth answers and discussion ask an experienced trainer with a nutrition background to help guide you along the way.