What To Eat After Exercise

The post workout meal… very important!

If you don’t get it right it is possible to undo a lot of your hard work from the training you just completed. 

Obviously you’ll still get the fitness benefits and positive mental benefits from completing a workout but if you don’t fuel up yourself properly afterwards then your muscles won’t be able to efficiently grow and repair as well, also if you eat the wrong things after exercise (as well as all the time) it will be bad for your fat loss attempts.

I’m a bit wary of overcomplicating things and if you are someone who is happy with their body and fitness routine and exercise for the fun of it then you won’t need to do anything too complicated just eat healthy foods. I’ve gone into a bit more detail for the people who train with a distinct goal in mind, focusing more on the muscle gaining side of things for this article.

So as you know or may not know, when you train your muscles break down and suffers damage (tiny tears). During the rest period after training is where (if the muscles are properly supplied) the muscles repair and grow back stronger, this is what gets you bigger, faster and stronger. What the muscles need to do this efficiently is good nutrition and rest.

The best food for helping the muscles build and repair is protein. Which is why you see many people have their protein shake post workout along with protein bars and meals containing chicken, fish etc. People do go a little bit protein crazy sometimes but the science suggests that protein post workout is good, I do it myself.

Good Post workout Nutrition Allows You To:

  • Recover
  • Rehydrate
  • Refuel
  • Build Muscle
  • Improve Performance In The Future

There are two states which are important when talking about this kind of stuff:

Anabolic – Muscle growth

Catabolic – Muscle wastage

If you are looking to build muscle you want to be in an anabolic state more often. When the body is repairing it is in an anabolic state. When the tissue is breaking down you are in a catabolic state.

What causes you to go into a catabolic state?

The two most common reasons are through extended periods of exercise and also through fasting. When you work out the body first uses its preferred sources of energy; glycogen and glucose, then it can start to breakdown tissue in order to burn the protein which is found in the muscle and use it for energy, this is quite a similar effect to what happens when you fast.

When you exercise you go into a catabolic state but with the correct nutrition before, during and after you can stop the negative effects associated with a catabolic state.

So I didn’t want to cram all this info into one article, as you know this article is about post workout nutrition which I think people are most interested in and is arguably the most important. Keep your eyes peeled for the pre workout nutrition and during workout nutrition article coming up in the coming weeks.

What to eat post workout

Like I said earlier a protein shake straight after a workout is a good idea but there is more to post workout nutrition than that. Having a protein shake doesn’t mean you have successfully fuelled your body after your session and you can eat what you want now.

Even before having a protein shake I would recommend in the 15 min window after working out you have a little bit of fruit, post workout is when your body is most insulin resistant so the sugars from the fruit would go straight into the working muscles and not stored as fat. Then protein shake if you wanted but just make sure that you try and have your post workout meal within an hour and a half of your workout, it’s sometimes called the muscle building window.

The muscle repair isn’t complete after you’ve had your protein shake it can take all day and night so your nutrition needs to be spot on.

Basically the better your eating structure is the more your body will stay in an anabolic state and out of the catabolic state. The body needs a lot of energy to help rebuild the muscle tissue, if you don’t give your body this energy through the foods you eat it won’t be able to rebuild efficiently.

In order to successfully repair the body needs Fats, Carbs and Protein. Not just protein!

Carbs – Exercise reduces blood glucose and glycogen and the body’s first goal post workout is to refill these stores. Something easily digested is perfect for doing this so the body can move onto the next job which is to repair the damaged muscle tissue. A protein shake or fruit as I mentioned earlier are the best things to take immediately post workout. These will provide your body with a quick shot of energy.

Fats – Maybe not quite so important post workout but eating healthy fats is an important part of a well balanced diet as well as aiding muscle building. You can get your healthy fats from nuts, fish, avocados, nut butters (small quantities) and oils (coconut, extra virgin olive oil).

Protein – As stated protein is probably the most important food type to eat post workout. It prevents protein breakdown and stimulates growth in muscle tissue, it helps with recovery, adaptation and the way your muscles are able to perform. For speed and convenience you have protein bars and shakes available but they shouldn’t replace wholesome whole protein foods such as eggs, fish and meat. (Click here for more info about protein)

If you haven’t eaten much pre workout or you have fasted then make sure that you get your post workout meal eaten fairly quickly.

A great post workout meal would contain a big dose of health protein, some vegetables, healthy fats and a small quantity of carbs with a big glass of water to wash it down with. If you vegetarian you can still get enough protein via eggs, fish (if you eat it), cheese, yogurt, vegetables and so on.

How about grilled chicken breast, broccoli, green beans, brown rice and avocado.

That meal will give you everything you need to recover from the previous session and prime you for the next session.

Hope you found this article handy.

Train hard, eat well.

Jamie Stedman

PS If you want a more structured eating plan to follow click here.

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