After finishing up a workout, you’re wondering what and when you should eat. Learn about a timely and healthy post workout meal to build muscle!
Perhaps the most important meal in a bodybuilder’s diet is what they eat after a workout. A healthy and well balanced diet is very important overall but a post workout meal can really make or break your results. Exercise of any form depletes the muscles glycogen stores. Your glycogen stores are what your body and your muscles use as energy.
You also make small tears in the muscles during weight lifting.
This may sound scary and may make you think that exercising is bad because you are using up all of your energy and tearing your muscles but this is how your muscles experience growth. After a workout, you must refill your glycogen stores and help the tears in your muscles repair. How do you do this? Food! Food is what your body uses as fuel. When you eat, your digestive system breaks up that food you eat and takes the vitamins and nutrients and stores them for later use as energy. It’s very important that you eat following exercise and stick to a regular post workout meal plan.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
The most common misconception that people have about their post workout meal is that they can eat whatever they want. I have heard, “I worked out today so I can eat this cheeseburger!” too many times. This is false! It’s important to eat after a workout but what you eat is also very important. Eating the wrong foods can cause your body to store them as fat instead of using it to repair your muscles and refuel your body. How many calories should your post-workout meal be?
The ideal amount of calories would be about 50% of the amount of calories you burned during your workout. For example, if you burned 500 calories during your workout, consume a meal that is about 250 calories. You don’t have to go crazy and count calories but if you only burned 300 calories, you don’t want to consume something that’s 300 calories or more because you won’t be creating a calorie deficit which is needed to lose weight.
So what should these calories consist of? Well, carbohydrates are one of the most important things to consume following a workout. You may be thinking “no, I need protein after a workout…” and this is true, but contrary to what you may think, carbohydrates are more important in post workout meals than protein. In order for your body to refuel your glycogen stores, you need to consume carbohydrates. Don’t get me wrong, you do need protein as well. The perfect post workout meal should consist of both carbs and protein. Fat does little for the body post workout so it’s not that important to focus on your fat intake. However, consuming foods high in fat will contribute to weight gain so be sure to keep an eye on your fat intake if weight loss if your goal.
HOW LONG AFTER WORKING OUT SHOULD I EAT?
The amount of time you wait to eat is almost just as important as what you eat. You have about a 20-40 minute window after you exercise to eat. Between this window, your body is ready to use the calories you consume to repair the muscles and store them as energy for later use. Waiting too long after exercising, your body is less likely to use the calories you consume for good use and will store them as fat. Also, you won’t refill your glycogen stores so you may find yourself feeling tired or sore a couple hours later.
EXAMPLE OF A GOOD POST WORKOUT MEAL
-Whole wheat English muffin with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Calories: 230 Fat: 9 g Carbs: 28 g Protein: 1 g
Calories: 160 Fat: 2.5 g Carbs: 26 g Protein: 8 g
-1 scoop protein powder with 8 oz. low fat milk
Calories: 210 Fat: 2.5 g Carbs: 13 g Protein: 33 g
-Chicken breast with brown rice
Calories: 400 Fat: 10 g Carbs: 45 g Protein: 30 g
These are just a few examples of some meals you can consume after a workout. There a ton of other meals and snacks that you can cater to your liking and your body type.
POST WORKOUT MEAL FLUID INTAKE
Aside from eating food, it’s really important to consume an adequate amount of water after a workout. The majority of people who are exercising at a moderate intensity lose about 4 cups of water per hour. It’s important to replenish your body shortly after you workout to prevent dehydration. Drinking about 16 ounces (one bottle) of water is a sufficient amount if you fall under the moderate exercise intensity level. However, if you are working at a high intensity or tend to sweat a lot, you should drink more.
A good way to figure out how much water you should drink is by weighing yourself right before you exercise and then right after you exercise. Drink the amount of ounces that you lost. If you are exercising outdoors in the summer or are exercising for longer than one hour, consider drinking some kind of sports drink that contains electrolytes such as Gatorade or even Smart water.
As you can see, post workout nutrition is very important for not only your success, but for your health. If you don’t eat the proper foods, drink the right amount of water, and do this all in the right amount of time…you can end up with a headache, nauseous, tired, dizzy, or many other unpleasant feelings.
After a workout, you want to give your body the proper nutrition and right amount of calories so that your muscles can repair themselves and you can refuel your glycogen stores. This will prevent soreness and tiredness. If you are someone who is very busy and don’t have the time to come home and prepare a full post workout meal, always have some kind of snack on you.
You can keep things such as dried fruit, nuts, protein bars, or crackers in your car, purse, or gym bag just so you have something to nosh on to replenish your body. If you do keep protein bars or fruit bars, make sure they don’t have too much sugar. The main problem with consuming those kinds of bars is that they are loaded with sugar. Make sure you buy bars that are nutritious!