No matter how many or what types of workouts you’re getting in each week, it’s your nutrition that plays a starring role in determining your fitness gains. Don’t neglect this critical aspect of training! A proper post-workout meal will help to build and repair muscle, decrease stress, replenish energy stores, and keep your metabolism stoked for the rest of the day.
Carbs help to replenish energy stores, while protein serves to help repair your muscles. The ratio of carbs to protein should vary based on the type of training. For cardio endurance workouts, stick to a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein post-workout. For strength training workouts, try a 2:1 ratio to properly repair and refuel your muscles.
It’s tempting when completing a tough workout to want to keep the momentum going by restricting calories - so as not to “cancel out” a great workout. But skimping on calories post-workout can actually work against you. Your body needs fuel to repair muscles and restore glycogen. And skimping now will do no good when you find yourself ravenous - and fighting cravings - later in the day. Use the post-workout feel good vibes to choose really healthy foods that will further the muscle gains and fat loss you’re working so hard for in the gym.
The goal here is to get nutrients to your body as quickly as possible. This will aid in recovery and help to maximize the benefits of your time at the gym. Your best best is simple, whole carbs, including fruit, oatmeal or quinoa. Great protein choices include protein powder, eggs, greek yogurt or chicken. Adding a bit of fat to your meal — almond butter or avocado are great options — will help you to feel satiated. Some meal options might be a protein shake with a banana and tablespoon of almond butter or grilled chicken with half of a sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil.
To get the most benefit from your post-workout meal, you should eat within one hour of completing your workout. It’s within this window of time your body is best able to rebuild its glycogen stores and aid in muscle repair. Not hungry yet? Skip the whole food meals and try a protein shake. You’ll quickly get nutrients to your system - and with no cooking required!
Everyone is different, and will respond differently to their workouts. Not only will your post-workout needs differ from someone working out next to you at the gym, your day-to-day needs will also change depending on the type and duration of the workout you choose. Your goal post-workout is to feel satiated, energized and ready to tackle the day. If you are feeling sluggish or tired after a workout, rethink what is going into your post-workout meal. Maybe fruit is a better option for you than oatmeal. A protein shake might get the job done versus grilled salmon. Take note of your meal and how you feel for the rest of the day. If you find yourself hungry and craving sweets later in the evening, it could be necessary to add a bit more fat to your meals. Continue mixing things up until you find the right formula for you.