Your post-workout meal may be the most important and beneficial meal of the day - so eat or drink up!
Once again, I’m going to be brutally honest with you: what you put into your body, the time you put it into your body, and the amount you put into your body MATTERS!
You’ll always hear me advising people about proper movements and post-workout nutrition and it’s for a good reason: the two go hand-in-hand.
It’s simple math, really: Strength + Nutrition = Your Fitness Goal. Trust me, there’s no other way to solve this equation.
Exercise Breaks Down Muscle, Food Rebuilds Muscle: An Overview of Post-Workout Nutrition
The picture above is what your muscles look like after a good strength training session.
When you train with me, you deplete most of your glycogen storage (carbs). That’s because we just lifted some heavy stuff and didn’t spend time talking and asking each other how our days were. We got shit done: sweat a whole bunch, broke down muscle, and improved movement.
But the real work has just begun; the only way to maximize the benefit of your workout is to rebuild what you broke.
Feed the body, replenish, grow stronger.
Just like the nasty dried up sponge you have sitting beside the Dawn dish detergent needs water to get back in action, your muscles needs food to revive them.
That’s Post-Workout Nutrition in a nutshell; let’s take a deeper look.
Don’t Be a Dry Sponge: The Three Rs of Post-Workout Recovery
To Recover you must: Refuel, Rebuild, and Rehydrate
If you have to FUEL your body pre-workout (include link to Part 1), then you have to REFUEL your body post-workout. Simple, right?
If a good strength training session depletes our glycogen store (the longer and the more intense the training session, the more we use) then we need to build it back up again. Think dry sponge!
“So how many carbohydrates does it take to Refuel?,” you ask.
Studies suggest .8 – 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. (To get your body weight in kilos, simply divide your weight by 2.2.)
Let’s look at an example: 150 lbs (body weight) / 2.2 = 68 kilos
Let’s say you participate in one of our Bootcamp programs. We’ll use 1.0 grams as the multiplier.
68 kilos x 1.0 grams = 68 grams of carbohydrates
Carbohydrate sources should be consumed as quickly as possible following your training session and be comprised of high Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates rather than low and more fibrous ones. Think fruit, milk, berries or a simple specified supplement replacement.
You just finished your strength training session and it’s time to repair your damaged muscle tissue. Protein is your Rebuilder; protein is the nutrient that drives your body to create and repair damages to tissue.
Consuming both protein and carbohydrates together post-workout promotes recovery at its best. The combination of carbohydrates and protein work together to replace depleted glycogen stores (carbs) and shuttle amino acids (proteins) through pathways to create and regenerate muscle. All of this makes you less sore, recover from your workout faster, and grow muscle to promote a lean body. This is a good thing. Eat more of the right things, at the right times to grow muscle, and get lean. Sounds like a win-win to me, what about you?
So what is the right amount of protein to ingest with your 68 grams of carbohydrates to create the perfect post-workout meal or shake?
Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle or maintain your sexy figure, ingesting a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein drink post-workout is a must. (For endurance athletes who think it’s fun to do things for a long time, you may need a 4:1 ratio due to mass depletion.
However, to personalize your ratio simply use .3 grams or .4 grams and multiply by your body weight in kilos.
Let’s take a look using the 150 lb example again:
150 lb / 2.2 = 68 kilos
68 X .3 grams = 20.4 grams
68 X .4 grams = 27.2 grams
The protein source can come in a whole food form or a supplement form depending on what your dietary needs, time or restrictions are. If you’re lactose intolerant, soy protein is a good substitute.
In case you’re interested, here is my favorite, personalized, post-workout shake. Remember, your numbers will be different based on your weight, and workout intensity:
2 cups chocolate milk or almond milk
1 cup water
1.5-2 servings frozen strawberries
4-6 ice cubes
1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
1 serving greens supplement
1-teaspoon instant coffee
Approx calories: 510 Carbohydrates: ~75g
If I’m out and about all day and can’t carry around the above, I’ll go with this as backup OR real food of course.
1 scoop coffee LEAN
4 scoops Workout
Approx calories: 537 Carbohydrates: 76g
The purpose of this Rehydration is simple: replace the fluids lost during exercise.
If you have ever weighed yourself before and after a workout session and noticed a difference in weight, don’t think you just burned off X amount of pounds of fat. Sorry to burst your bubble, but nobody loses a few pounds after a 20-minute cardio session. The reason for the weight loss is due to electrolytes and other fluids lost through sweat.
It can be very dangerous if you do not replace the lost weight post workout with ample amounts of water to restore your lost fluids.
A helpful guideline to ensure adequate fluid balance is to drink one pint of fluid for every pound lost during exercise. A general guideline for daily fluid intake is measured by body weight. Divide your body weight by 2. If we return to our 150 lb person example: he/she should consume 75-100 ounces of water daily.
Here are a few risks of dehydration, in case you thought Diet Coke was a significant fluid resource.
• Fluid loss equal to as little as 1% of total body weight can be associated with elevation in core temperature during exercise. (Overheating sucks)
• Fluid loss of 3-5% of body weight results in cardiovascular strain and impaired ability to dissipate heat.
• Fluid loss at 7% of body weight means collapse is likely.
Eliminate the risks by getting a water bottle and filling it up multiple times per day. Know how many fill-ups you need to hit your daily fluid intake and get drinking. Exercising? Sip water throughout your workout if you’re going to be at it for less than an hour; over an hour, you should sip Gatorade or a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes.
Not sure you’re getting enough fluids? When in doubt, you can always do the urine test. Ideal urine color is the color of lemon juice.
Thanks for hanging in there! I know it was a lot of information, so I’ve attempted to sum things up with the following key takeaways:
• A combination of carbohydrates and protein should be consumed within 15-45 minutes post-workout.
• Carbohydrates should make up .8 – 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight and include higher GI foods such as fruit, berries, milk, or supplements.
• Protein should make up .3 - .4 grams per kilogram of body weight. Consuming above this number will NOT make you more jacked. Sorry, dudes.
• Notice I did NOT mention anything about FAT. When it comes to your post-workout meal limit your peanut butter, almond butter, nuts and avocado consumption to a minimal dose. These items, while delicious, will slow the digestive and shuttling process of nutrients.
• Hydration and Rehydration are very important. When in doubt about your fluid intake, remember that ideal urine color is the color of lemon juice.
• A whey or soy powder protein supplement is best used for quick nutrients post-workout.
I hope you leave this page with a better understanding of why post-workout nutrition is so important and the simple steps you must take to give your body the fuel it needs to Recover, Refuel, Rebuild, and Rehydrate. Your body will thank you!
I’d enjoy reading your comments, thoughts, and questions, so please leave a line below and I’ll answer accordingly. Also, if you have a friend, family member, coworker, or someone you think could learn from this post, please be nice and share it with them.
Dedicated to your recovery,
P.S. Eat clean, train dirty.