Everyone’s always saying that you’re supposed to eat a healthy meal after working out, but what does that meal actually include? Well, first we have to understand that when it comes to training, you can’t dismiss the post-workout meal. If you look at the people working out in gyms today, you’ll see that most of them are just lifting weights without any real effect. They do the work in the gym maybe even perfectly, but since they don’t recognize the necessary nutrition to go with their training regimen, their results are miniscule.
However, you can fix this fairly easily, since exercising isn’t the issue most of the time. The issue is made up of people not paying any attention to what they’re supposed to eat, regardless if they’re bulking or trying to cut down. People spend all of their time focusing on what they’re supposed to train while dismissing what they’re supposed to eat – it simply doesn’t work like that! To be able to get to the bottom of this we need to look at what’s good and what’s bad regarding nutrition, including how to utilize it to get the best possible results in the gym.
1. What Is a Post-Workout Period?
Well, it’s the period right after you stop exercising, of course! Working out will help you with a number of tasks, including health and aesthetic reasons and benefits. Working out itself isn’t a positive thing for the body though, as it perceives it as a threat that weakens the body and the muscles through stress. Signs of this stress include needing extra sleep, an increased appetite and muscle soreness manifested through DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness). When you feel these symptoms, it means that your body no longer has any reserve in the muscles you’re trying to work on and there has been some minor damage to the tissue. Also, this means that your muscles need to recover and recuperate immediately, which would allow them to be repaired. When this happens, your muscle adapts and improves as to be able to better handle the same level of stress in the future.
If you’re working on some endurance training, the energy that your muscles store will become depleted and your muscles will sustain some damage in the short run. In the long run, it’ll fix itself because the muscle will rebuild itself into a more efficient aerobic machine. If you’re training for strength, you want to destroy the weaker muscle fiber in order to create stronger, bigger fibers. This is the case with all types of workouts, and it’s a naturally known occurrence called “remodeling”. While you’re working out and right after you finish, the stress the exercise puts on your carbohydrate storage in your muscles means that they become depleted and the muscle protein structure changes very little. After that, your immune system gets involved and starts fixing the problem. When you’re not consuming the necessary proteins and carbs, your body won’t be able to rebuild. This means that you’ll have no muscles ready to fulfill their potential, nor any that have already fulfilled it. Make sure you know that the time you invest in your exercise will return with necessary results only if you train smart and eat smart as well – so munch on those carbs and proteins!
2. Feeding Your Muscles!
People who are gym beginners, no matter what they’ve chosen to work on, have to have their post-workout nutrition to make the muscle grow by providing it with the necessary macronutrients. Every single jolt of energy that you spend comes from carbohydrates, so the depletion of the carb stores in your muscles can’t be avoided. This means that an after-exercise meal needs to have lots of carbs to put them back in your muscle storage and replenish the reserves You will need to eat enough carbs to make your body release a big dose of unsilin which will push the carbs and amino acids in your muscles. Also, this triggers an increase in muscle synthesis and your protein balance turns positive, which means your muscles will repair much quicker than if it was negative.
If you eat a lot of carbs, the body will release a large dose of insulin, which will in turn resupply your glycogen stores in the muscles, but it will also boost muscle tissue repair. The carbohydrates will boost your glycogen synthesis as well and will make your muscles regenerate more quickly, as opposed to when you work out, when your muscle protein starts degrading and you will need a lot of protein in your after-workout meal just to fix the structural problems of the muscle that arise when you lift heavy weights. After working out, your body will slow down the speed of your protein synthesis and it will also boost the speed of your protein breakdown, which means that your muscles will start degenerating. You can stop this by ingesting some protein and amino acid solutions, which will boost the synthesis process and negate the breakdown process.
3. What About Meal Timing?
When you consume a post-workout meal, you will need to have a few very important things in there – proteins, carbs and absolutely no fat. You need essential fats during your entire nutritional day, but when you eat fat right after working out, when the goal is to get macronutrients into your muscles as quickly as possible. If there’s fat in your meal, its effects will be slowed and you won’t get the full benefit of the post-workout beverage. Fat slows the movement through your intestines, which means that when you eat fat right after you work out, you’ll slow your system’s digestion and the absorption of carbs and protein will be slowed as well.
I can’t stress how important it is to eat your after-training meal right after you’re done with training. This is because your muscles will be really weak and will need a lot of protein and carbs to begin to function at their best, but keep in mind that they are also primed to receive nutrients, meaning it’s the best time to eat. This is known as an “anabolic window”, and it’s not constant – the longer your period of recovery grows, the shorter the anabolic window becomes, meaning you have to eat right after working out or you risk missing the golden time window and recovering fully. If you eat a meal 1 hour after working out, it will have a better effect than eating the same, or a better meal three hours after the training has concluded. If you wait more than this time, your glycogen synthesis process and your protein repair mechanisms will be diminished and you’ll have to deal with unwanted consequences.
4. Supplements or Whole Foods?
Sometimes, it’s better to take a supplement instead of eating whole foods. I know it sounds ludicrous, but it’s the truth. When you’re working on your post-workout nutrition, the fact that the protein shake is liquid means that it will do a far better job than any solid whole food. Here’s why:
- After working out, you’ll hear a lot of people say that they can’t stomach eating a large meal. This is because the training stresses your body to a point where your instinct for hunger is pretty much dead, but I can’t stress how important it is to eat if you want to keep your muscle structure ready to heal at all times. Eating right after working out will help your muscles remodel, but it will also help them recuperate and make them bigger.
- Liquid supplements are easy to drink, they’re full of nutrients and they’re relatively delicious. They’ll give you all you need right after training, and they’re relatively simple on the molecular level which means your intestines will process them with ease.
- The liquid supplements that have fast-digesting protein such as whey hydrolysates and isolates, as well quickly-digesting carbs like dextrose and maltodextrin have a better chance of absorption than whole food meals, which is another advantage for supplements.
- If you take a liquid post-workout shake it’ll be in your system in half an hour to an hour, which means your muscles will get all they need in a very short time. If you eat a solid meal, you might need a few hours for the nutrients in it to reach your muscles.
You need the protein and carbs to reach your muscles as soon as possible to improve your chances of recovery and muscle tissue synthesis. There are some nutrients that improve your recovery period when you eat them right after your workout. This type of nutrition will have a lot of water as well as high-glycemic index carbs and amino acids in certain ratios that your system deems healthy. Also, you should definitely steer clear of any fat in the post-workout period. The best way to make sure these nutrients are in your system is through a liquid blend of your make and choosing.