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All About Post Workout Nutrition

A often misunderstood, yet extremely important part of our workouts in what to consume after the workout is over. Our bodies deal with nutrients differently at different times, depending on activity. This means what you consume before, during, and after your workouts is important. By consuming the right nutrients after your workout (AKA Post workout nutrition), you can improve your body composition, performance, and overall recovery. Post workout nutrition has three specific purposes: Replenish glycogen (energy stores), decrease protein breakdown (increase muscle size and quality), and increase protein synthesis (repair any damage caused by the workout). Some of the benefits of good post workout nutrition include:

  • Improved recovery

  • Less muscle soreness

  • Increased ability to build muscle

  • Improved immune function

  • Improved bone mass

  • Improved ability to utilize body fat

Why is post workout nutrition so important? When we workout intensely, we damage tissues and we use fuel stores. This is what ultimately makes us stronger, leaner, fitter, and more muscular; but it does require us to repair what's damaged.This repair and rebuilding occurs through the breakdown on old, damaged proteins (aka protein breakdown) and the construction of new ones (aka protein synthesis). The relationship between these two parameters represents the metabolic basis for muscle growth. Muscle protein synthesis is increased slightly after resistance workouts, while protein breakdown increases dramatically. So we are breaking down more then building up. Muscle hypertrophy (growth) occurs when a positive protein balance can be established during recovery. In other words, when we make sure we have enough raw materials (protein and carbohydrates) available for protein synthesis to occur, so that is doesn't lag behind protein breakdown. Studies have shown that when you consume the right type of nutrients after exercise protein synthesis is stimulated and protein breakdown is suppressed. Protein is not the only concern after your workout. During exercise sessions, stored carbohydrates can be substantially depleted. This means that during the post workout period we should consume both protein and carbohydrates. What is our "window of opportunity"? There is a period of time after our workout where your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth, and muscle strength. This window opens immediately after your workout and starts to close pretty quickly. Studies have shown that it's most important to get post workout nutrition immediately, but certainly within 2 hours after your workout. What should you eat? As stated above we need to make sure we get both protein and carbohydrates in right after our workouts. You can certainly eat a whole food meal that meets these requirements, however they aren't always the most practical for a few reasons; some people aren't hungry right after exercise and whole food digest slowly (and we want nutrients available quickly). On the other hand, consuming a liquid form of nutrition that contains rapidly digesting carbohydrates and proteins might do the following:

  • accelerate recovery by utilizing insulin for nutrient transport into cells

  • can result in rapid digestion and absorption

  • is often better tolerated after workouts

Studies have shown that it might only take about 20 grams protein after a workout to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Recommendations: Ingest 30 grams of carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein immediately after you have finished your workout. Then eat a whole food meal and hour or two after your workout. To even further boost the benefits of post workout nutrition consider adding BCAA's during your workout and creatine to your protein drink.


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