The time after an intense workout is the most important time to consume a quality meal. At the same time this meal can be the biggest meal you consume throughout the day. Everything that will be consumed (protein and carbs) in this period, will go to restoration of muscle and muscle mass increase as the muscles need glycogen to restore their energy supplies and protein to start repairing the damage done by the workout.
This is also the time when anabolic hormones are released to prepare the body for the recovery process.
Carbohydrate after exercise are best if consumed in liquid form. Also, they need to be simple, high glycemic carbs. You need to create a sharp spike in insulin levels, as insulin has highly anabolic and anti-catabolic (muscle building) properties. More insulin will transport more nutrients into the muscle.
The best post-workout carb sources are considered cranberry and grape juice, because of the high glucose to fructose ratio. Consume approximately 0.5 g of carbohydrates every pound of muscle weight. A glass of grape juice contains 38 grams of carbohydrates (155 kcal), and a glass of cranberry-31 grams of carbohydrates (115 kcal). You can also have any high carb food (high glycemic), that doesn’t contain fat (bread, jam, sugar, potatoes, rice, pasta, fruit etc.).
In addition, right after the workout you want to consume protein. The best form of protein immediately after the workout is a whey protein shake because of the high speed of digestion. It has been shown that protein synthesis in the muscles after a workout increases roughly 3 times (compared to fasting) when you consume a combination of simple carbs and protein. A high protein and carb shake can do a great job in terms of recovery.
The amount of protein from powder should be around 0.3 g per kilogram of your body weight. If you can’t drink protein shakes, for whatever reasons, your next best protein source would be egg whites.
Full post workout meal
Because post-workout nutrition’s goal is to quickly and efficiently contribute to muscle recovery and growth, it’s best if you can consume a full meal in the next couple of hours after the protein-carb shake.
The protein foods you are going to choose should be lean and with as little as fat as possible, as fat will slow down the intake of carbohydrates and protein from the stomach into the bloodstream. For example you can choose chicken breasts, egg whites, lean beef etc. You should also be careful with cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products as they contain not less than 5% fat. The only exception is oily fish (not fried!). It can and should be there as often as possible. As for carbs, this is the right time to get some complex carbs.
Within two hours after a workout, it is desirable to exclude anything that contains caffeine: coffee, tea, cocoa all contain caffeine. The fact of the matter is that caffeine interferes with the work of insulin and thus prevents your body to restore glycogen in the muscles and liver.