Figuring out when, what and how much to eat post-workout can get pretty confusing to say the least. Let’s talk timing first.
You should consume your post-workout (PWO) meal as soon as physically possible after you’ve finished training. Make sure you high five the rest of your workout crew and let your heart rate come down a bit first, but get your PWO nutrition going as soon as you can.
Bottom line: for best results, get your PWO meal in your belly no later than 15-30 minutes after your training’s done. Sure, you can lag and eat it later, but you won’t be taking advantage of that much talked about “window” when you’re most insulin-sensitive.
Now, what to eat.
Your PWO is best centered around protein and with carbs added in for high-intensity athletes (like CrossFitters) and endurance athletes. For power athletes, it may vary daily depending upon whether you’re cycling your carbs or not, and that’s something you’ll need to play with. Fat doesn’t belong in the PWO meal because it slows digestion which is counterproductive right after training.
Whole, lean sources of protein – think meat, fish and egg whites – are always better than protein supplements because they represent a more complete, nutrient-dense source. However, whey or egg white protein may be useful because of convenience. Test it out to see what you can tolerate or not.
For carbs, you’ll want to think about starchy veggies such as sweet potato or hard squash as your go-to source with fruit and other starches (think white rice, white potato or tapioca) as alternatives. Just a note: fruit contains the sugar fructose which preferentially replaces glycogen in the liver, NOT the muscles. Your muscle glycogen tank is empty after hard training. Fill it up! As far as other starches, my personal preference is to usually avoid them because they just aren’t as nutrient dense, but if you’ve got good body composition and are insulin-sensitive, they may be worth experimenting with.
And now how much. Quantities will vary depending on your size but a general recommendation is 50-100 grams of carbs and 30-60 grams of protein (~4-8 oz of lean meat).
- Eat your PWO no later than 15-30 min after your training session.
- PWO should contain protein and carbs (unless you’re a power athlete who is cycling carbs).
- General guidelines are 50-100 grams of carbs; 30-60 grams of protein.
And one last thing, your post-workout meal is not a substitute for the next meal of the day!
NEW! Print out this handy PDF summary to hang on your fridge or post up in your gym.
Questions? Hit me up in the comments below.