After we train our muscles we need to focus on the recovery process as we don’t build our bodies in the gym. We break them down in the gym and build them up with nutrition. At this point you probably know protein supplies the amino acids that repair the micro-trauma from resistance training and carbohydrates help to replenish muscle glycogen — our muscles primary energy source during intense exercise.
Its been pretty well established that our focus in regards to manipulating body composition is to focus most on daily caloric intake, but that does not mean a good post workout ritual should be overlooked. Post workout nutrition falls under whats called “nutrient timing”, which if you are wanting to maximize your results in building or maintaining muscle mass, should be looked at.
Focusing on consuming a balanced meal of protein and carbohydrates is a great starting point following your workouts. As a general rule, the closer to the completion of your workout – the more sensitive your muscles are to taking in nutrients. There’s a lot of opinions out their as to the type of carbohydrate to take in such as simple sugars like fruits or complex carbs like oatmeal which is another aspect of “nutrient timing”. I say simply focusing on consuming a good majority of your daily carbohydrate intake pre and post workout in whole food sources is sure to reap positive results. To be honest, this would also be the most IDEAL time to factor your favorite treats into your macros, if you need.
When aiming for protein, trying to optimize protein synthesis and building muscle, we’re trying to maximize the amount of the amino acid leucine we are getting. There’s different numbers depending on the source of protein you choose but below is a great table from an article (cited below) Dr. Layne Norton did to help give you a better understanding of leucine amounts in various protein sources. To hit the optimal 4.4g of leucine you will need about 25-30g of whey protein (usually 1 serving/scoop), while other staples like chicken breasts you’ll need a bit higher like 40-45g. Its important to not get overly obsessed with precision but use this as a gauge to make a better decision. Nothing is going to give you magic results but if you’re consistent it could compound to greater success over time. Also remember to work within the caloric and macro-nutrient framework your body needs and try to optimize what you can do with your specific numbers. Focus on small improvements from your current state rather than what perfection is on paper.
With the nutritional supplement industry growing to be $100 billon dollar industry worldwide, companies have created products to help make this post workout nutrition a convenient and easy process.
Supplementing with a protein shake post workout has its benefits because it hits the blood stream much faster than consuming a solid meal. Whey protein can hit the blood stream in as little as 15 minutes after ingesting where it can take up to 90 minutes from solid food. This could benefit you as your muscles are crying for nutrition, especially amino acids after a workout. Its also convenient if you are in a rush after your workout and may not have time to sit down and eat a solid meal. Most the time I’m up all day training clients after my workouts so I don’t have the option of eating a meal until later.
Think about it, when we eat solid food our body has to use energy to release stomach acids and perform all the various tasks of breaking down the food to make it available in our blood stream. Liquid is already mostly broken down and takes much less energy to make use of – especially if you’re using a fast absorbing protein like Whey Isolate or a BCAA drink. This helps our bodies get nutrition fast after a workout. This is also a time when our muscle tissue is most responsive to taking in nutrients.
Its well known that exercise, specially weight training, increases insulin sensitivity and nutrient uptake into the muscle. For this reason try to have either a whey isolate protein shake (about 25-30g of protein) or BCAA drink (about 15g BCAAs) within 30 minutes of a workout to maximize the anabolic response and help protein synthesis occur. Then eat your next solid meal anywhere from 45-60 minutes after if possible.
Whether you drink a shake or prefer a solid meal after your workout, taking this post workout feeding period seriously will help you transform your body and get the results you’re after! Yes, nutrient timing takes a backseat to overall daily intake but I recommend implementing both in order to OPTIMIZE results. After all if you’re working hard in the gym, you owe it to yourself to work just as hard with your nutrition.
Written By: John Reed