5 Key Components of Post-Workout Nutrition

5 Key Components of Post-Workout Nutrition

Figuring out what to eat after you workout can be overwhelming - How much do I eat?  When should I eat?  What if I’m too busy to plan ahead?  Keep it simple and sane with the following 5 key components…

1.    Meal Composition

  • To refuel and recover, you need easily digestible sources of protein and carbohydrates

    • Trying to lean out?  Focus primarily on protein after your workout

    • Doing multiple workouts a day, just finished a really high intensity workout, and/or trying to build muscle?  Focus on including protein and carbohydrates after your workout

  • But where’s the fat?  Fats are a very important part of your daily nutrition, but they digest slowly (which is why they help keep you full and satisfied).  Fat’s slow digesting quality makes it something you want to limit in the meals after you workout so that your body can get the protein and carbohydrates it needs.  Plan ahead to get your fats into your other meals during the day!

2.    Meal Timing

  • When it comes to post-workout nutrition, sooner is better.  After a high intensity workout, your muscles been damaged and used glycogen (how carbohydrates are stored in your muscles). To repair and replenish, they need protein and glucose as fast as possible.  Try to eat something within 20 minutes of working out, then have the next meal in your day (breakfast, lunch, or dinner - depending when you workout) within 2 hours of finishing your exercise, focusing again on protein and carbohydrates.

3.    Meal Size

  • Your body can only process certain amounts of protein and carbohydrates at a time, which is why you want to give it small, easily digestible portions after you workout (this is why you probably don’t feel ready to eat a giant steak and a bowl of beans in the 20 minutes after you finish a high intensity workout)

  • Specific nutritional requirements post-workout depend on just about everything: your size, goals, and how hard you worked out.  Try to include 15 - 35 grams of protein and about 30 - 100 grams of carbohydrates.

4.    Meal Choices

Your carbohydrate sources should be high in glucose.  If you’re looking at nutritional information, a good tip is look for something with carbohydrates but low sugars, or think of carbohydrate sources that don’t taste sweet.

Mix and match from the suggestions below:

Fast Digesting Carbohydrate Sources

  • Sweet potato

  • White potato

  • Plantain

  • Cooked white rice

  • Bread

  • Bagel

  • Oats

Protein Sources

  • High quality whey protein powder

  • Chicken breast

  • Fish

  • Bison

  • Lean ground beef

  • Low fat greek yogurt

  • Low fat cottage cheese

5.    Implementation

To put this all in practice, keep an open mind and try to plan ahead.

  • Try some of the principles outlined above and tweak them based on how your body responds.  Don’t like dairy?  Don’t choose dairy as a protein source.  Can’t handle gluten?  Choose gluten free carb sources.  Almost threw up after your last post-workout meal?  Try eating a little less next time and/or waiting a couple of extra minutes.  Adjust and personalize as needed, and remember that the foods in #4 are just suggestions.

  • Try to plan ahead so you don’t find yourself going hungry (hangry?) after a workout.  Batch prepare carb sources for the week and keep a tub of protein and a shaker cup in the car.