So what is the post workout meal? It is that refuel after your workout. The foods that will contribute to repairing muscle tissue and replenishing glycogen stores. A high intensity workout taxes your body in numerous ways. You’re doing a high intensity workout, right? The only reason I ask is because the post workout meal is one you earn. Let’s examine the why and how of post workout nutrition.
Why you need it.
Lifting weights breaks down muscle tissue. This may seem like a negative, but it’s how muscles grow stronger and bigger. In actuality muscles naturally breakdown and repair. Protein is digested in the body and broken down into amino acids that work to repair the muscles.
What else happens when we exercise? Glycogen storage is depleted. Glycogen is glucose (blood sugar) that has been stored in the muscles and liver. Think of glycogen as the gas in your cars tank. As much as 80% of ATP (the fuel that muscles use to work) is derived from glycolysis, or the breakdown of glucose.
What do you need?
As mentioned, both protein and glycogen replenishment are important factors to post workout nutrition.
Protein can be found in many different sources. The optimal choice post workout used to be straight whey protein as whey is shown to be among the fastest digesting proteins. However, new research has shown that a protein blend may be more beneficial overall. Protein from whey, egg, milk, and casein each have different rates of digestion. This not only offers an immediate influx of amino acids to damaged muscles, but offers a steady delivery of them anywhere from four to six hours after.
Look for a blend that offers a fast (whey) medium (egg) and slow (casein) protein source. Considering you partake in a sixty minute session with an average twenty working sets look to consume a protein blend of 30-40 grams protein.
The newest products on the market are also bone broth protein shakes, bulletproof collagen protein and even beef protein shakes. The companies behind these products have made shakes and protein options that taste better then they sound!
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan eating plan, or can’t digest milk options exist. Several companies like Now, Isopure, and Allmax offer lactose free options.
While not as prevalent in the retail market, vegan protein powders also exist. Keep in mind that the protein sources in these vegetarian/vegan products may not be as effective as milk or egg based protein sources. Pea protein has been shown to be favorable among most plant sources.
Are whole foods acceptable? While the key is to eat proteins that digest at a quick and steady rate, any is better than none. When it comes to whole foods opt for lean quality sources of protein like chicken breast, beef sirloin, or eggs. Optimally you want to consume about 30-40 grams of protein.
We also discussed glycogen replenishment. This is one of those times that fast digesting carbs are your friend. There are researchers who claim that the body doesn’t burn enough glycogen during workouts to warrant post workout carbs. However, you should be working out hard enough that you do use up stored glycogen. The workouts in this research often utilizes very light or low intensity workouts.
An average thirty to sixty-minute workout at high intensity should utilize about 40-80% or more of your glycogen storage.
In this case opt for a fast digesting carb source like dextrose. If you partake in a sixty minute resistance training session with an average of twenty working sets then look to consume 30 grams of fast digesting carbs. This is one of the few times your body can utilize these carbs and not contribute to fat gain.
Sources of dextrose include candy like Smarties, Pixy Stix, as well as bulk dextrose powder that can be added to your protein shake.
It should be noted that studies exist questioning or dispelling the post workout window, or even the need for post workout nutrition. While these studies may have merit, they are attempting to amend years of documented research. Furthermore, and often times the study authors do not always come to concrete enough conclusions. Their finding may adequately question previous research, but fall short of completely proving it inaccurate. New and immerging reach is vital for progress, but it must be substantial enough to truly undefined what is.