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What Should I Eat After My Workout?

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There seems to be a lot of confusion over this subject so I thought I would do a quick post to break it down for you. Quick! :)

There are 2 things to remember when it comes to post-workout nutrition:

1) Make sure you have the “big rocks” in place already.
Meaning, are you already eating 90% clean and training regularly? If not, spend your energy on getting these things on board first before sweating the small stuff. Post-workout nutrition will make the biggest difference for those who are already on a regular healthy routine and are already fairly lean (<25% BF). For those just getting started, harness your energy to eat better overall and exercise regularly. Once you get that down, go to #2, which is…

2) Define your goal.
People who want to build muscle should be eating differently post-workout than those whose goal is to burn fat.

  • If your goal is muscle gain, the 30-60 minute window post-workout is very important. To maximize muscle building without a lot of fat gain, choose a meal with a 1:1 ratio of protein to higher GI carbs. Once example is a whey protein shake with BCAAs along with one of the following: 2 bananas, 2 TB honey, 1 whole sweet or white potato or 1 cup rice (cooked). Dairy is a particularly good option post-workout because it raises insulin, which is needed to activate muscle synthesis. Keep fat low immediately post-workout, as it can slow absorption of the other macros.
  • If your goal is strictly fat loss, the timing of post-workout nutrition is not as important. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that waiting a little while to eat, say 1-2 hours post workout, can give you a slight edge because it allows your fat burning machinery to do it’s job post-workout, since a post-workout meal will blunt this effect slightly (depending on its macro composition). Getting carbs immediately into the blood stream is also not as important, so skip the high GI carbs and choose carbs that are more slowly digested, like oats or starchy veggies. If you are in full-blown fat-burning mode, you might skip starch altogether and go with lean protein and veggies only. Always choose a lean protein source, either from a pea/rice blend protein powder or regular food sources like chicken, fish, egg whites or lean beef.
  • Finally, the above scenarios refer to post-WEIGHT TRAINING workouts. If you are doing cardio only like HIIT or steady-state cardio, higher GI carbs are not as important to get in post-workout unless you are a marathon runner and need to replete glycogen. But for the average person who wants fat loss, low glycogen stores are preferably. Use BCAAs to help with energy during workouts (take 5g pre-workout) instead of filling up carb stores. If your goal is fat loss, stop carbbing up! It’s not necessary :) Post-cardio, do lean protein and veggies from a regular meal for best fat-loss results.

Related: Demystifying “Fat Burning Zone” Training

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