Food as Fuel – Post-workout nutrition
For this final installment about peri-workout nutrition we are going to focus on post-workout nutrition. In parts 1 & 2 we addressed how to fuel before a training session, then how and when to use a little intra-workout nutrition to get some big results. Here in Part 3 we will focus on making the most of the anabolic window to set your body up to recover and adapt to the training stimulus. Let’s get into it and maximize those gains!
Post-workout Nutrition Basics
“So all you need to do is chug 40g of protein within 30s of your last rep, right?” Not exactly….Your post-workout nutrition WILL vary depending on how you fueled before the workout. Research shows that we get the best results in terms of muscle growth when we keep that gap between Pre- and Post-workout meals to 3-5 hours. Staying within this window ensures that there are enough building blocks circulating (amino acids & carbohydrates) to start repairing and recovering from the workout when our muscles are most primed. Let’s talk about what to include in that post-workout meal and how it changes in relation to your pre-workout meal timing.
Post-workout Nutrition: General Guidelines
We can modify our macros in order to maximize that “anabolic window” and get the most out of the hard work we just put in at the gym. Here are some basic guidelines for macros to shoot for in that post-workout meal. Notice this is very similar to your pre-workout meal ~3 hours before the gym.
- Protein: 0.5 g/kg or 0.2 g/lb
- Carbohydrates: 1-1.5 g/kg or 0.45-1.3 g/lb
- Fat: 10-20g (will vary more based on goals and timing)
Now, let’s break down each one and go over a few ways to tweak it to match YOUR goals and schedule.
Protein is made of smaller molecules called amino acids. These are the building blocks used to repair the muscle damage caused from resistance training. Your body uses these amino acids to make the muscle proteins bigger and stronger so they are capable of handling more in the next session, so it makes sense that we want to have plenty of amino acids circulating after a workout. It’s hard to build a brick wall without bricks.
If it’s been more than 4 hours since your pre-workout meal, then you’ll want a protein source that is more rapidly digested like a protein shake. This will make those precious amino acids available sooner. Followed the 1-2 hr pre-workout meal guide? You have another couple hours after the workout to get in a quality meal, so you don’t necessarily need to chug that shake the second you set the barbell down.
Carbs are our bodies first choice for fuel during higher intensity workouts like CrossFit. This is why a little dose of intra-workout carbs can help give you the boost you need to hit that PR or get in some accessory work. The type and timing of carbohydrates you should focus on post-workout will vary based on the timing of your pre-workout meal.
If you went into your workout fasted or you are getting toward that 4-5 hour mark since your pre-workout meal, then you want to focus on fast digesting carbs and low fiber. This will help make those carbs available sooner to help replenish muscle glycogen stores. Replacing glycogen stores is most important if you have another game or workout that day (think basketball tournament or CrossFit comp) or less than 24 hours away (think 5:45pm class Friday and 8am class Saturday). Otherwise, glycogen is replaced at around the 24 hour mark post workout as long as you are eating a balanced diet.
If you don’t have another event within 24 hours and ate 1 hour before the WOD then you have another 2-3 hours after the workout to get in a balanced meal to maximize that anabolic window to jump start the recovery process.
Fat is an essential component of our nutrition and plays vital roles in hormone production, nutrient absorption and creating healthy cells. That said, fat is not as essential immediately post workout. Fat slows digestion so you may want to consider skipping it or saving it for another meal, especially if it is getting closer to the end of that 4-5 hour window and you need some fast digesting protein to get to those muscles.
Take a look at your schedule for the week and see what days & times you plan on going to the gym. Next, look at when and what you typically eat before your workout and after. Use these guides to make a plan for optimizing your pre and post-workout nutrition to get more out of the hard work you put in at the gym.
We hope this series helped you develop a clear understanding of how to use nutrition around your workout to level up! If you have any questions or want to go over your pre-, intra- and post-workout nutrition strategy please reach out to Coach Allie or Coach Colin in person or on instagram @ajs519 and @feens11 to help you find a plan that best fits your schedule and goals!