We covered pre-workout and game day nutrition but what about that post workout.
Pre-workout nutrition is all about energy to perform, post-workout is all about pushing recovery and that famous window of “gains”.
Everyone has heard the old advice that you should have a protein shake right after yourvworkout or you will lose all your gains right? Actually it turns out this advice is quite dated and we now know your overall protein consumption throughout the day matters more than the timing post workout. We also know that it was a myth that we can only digest protein 30g at at time, if you ingest it, you will process it, it just might take a while if you eat a 12 oz steak!
So why even bother with post-workout?
Because training is stressful. It is a good stress, but our body does not always know the difference. If you are training hard, you are generating a stress response and elevating your cortisol. Elevated cortisol is not something we want for too long. Cortisol contributes to muscle break down and has an effect on your immune system. One of the ways to shut down that cortisol response quickly is to get a spike in your blood sugar and this is why your post workout carbs are so magical.
What do you need the most post-workout?
Carbs. The truth is, post workout nutrition has less to do with gains and more to do with kick-starting the recovery process. A hard met-con or gruelling race puts you in a sympathetic state where your body is essentially in “fight or flight state”. Your heart is beating faster and your cortisol is elevated so taking in quick post workout carbs can help the body switch back to the parasympathetic system and rest and digest mode. We don’t want to walk around with elevated cortisol too long.
But do you still need protein post-workout?
The post-workout window of gains seems to have been just a myth. But what I do know from experience is people tend not to get all the daily protein they need. For that reason I usually recommend my athletes have a good quality whey Isolate or vegan protein powder they enjoy at their disposal. Adding a post workout shake is an easy way to ensure you meet your daily targets. Plus, a good whey isolate is generally easy to digest at a time where you need the fuel. But how much protein is enough daily? On the low end you should be getting a minimum of 0.7g/pound of body weight, up to 1.1grams per pound.
So if the window of gains is a myth, does timing still matter?
Timing is not magical, but we know that by replenishing with carbs and protein anywhere from 30-60 minutes post workout and re-hydrating with water your recovery will be better the next day. Research also indicate that female athletes have a narrower window of timing for optimizing recovery and should aim to eat a small snack or drink a recovery shake with 2:1 or 3:1 carb to protein within 30 minutes of finishing their workouts.
If carbs are so important, which source of carbs is best post-workout?
Ones that you can tolerate and digest well. Carb supplement with highly branched cyclic dextrin are designed to enter your body quickly, feel light on the stomach and easy to digest.We often recommend taking a carb supplements, not because they are superior, but mostly because for many eating post workout is the last thing they want to do or can stomach.
You can however achieve the same results with real food. Just ensure you get that fuel in within 30-60 minutes post workout to maximize your recovery. Eating carbs immediately post workout will help switch your body from fight or flight to rest and recover mode. If you are pairing protein with your carbs, think of a 2: 1 or 3 : 1 carb to protein ratio, depending on your size and goals.
Some real food options:
- White rice
- White potatoes
- Breakfast cereal or cereal bars(not whole wheat or whole grain based)
- Quick oats
- Pancakes (Kodiak Cakes)
- Ripe bananas
- Coconut water
If you chose a carb supplement or real food, just make sure you get that fuel 30-60 minutes post workout.
When I am training hard or competing I pack my gym bag with a shaker cup with 2:1 carb supplement and whey isolate.I personally use 5start4mula Carbohyline and either the Coffee flavour or Key lime pie from the same brand. I love the taste and it mixes incredibly well with just cold water. Links are below. It’s quick and easy and and I don’t have to think about it since the last thing I want to do after a hard workout is to eat something but I know my body needs it.
When I am not training as hard or competing, I might sip on coconut water (which mixes really well with protein powder too by the way) or head home and ensure I am eating a nice complete meal no later than 1hr after the gym.
I also keep a few emergency carb snacks in my gym bags, like baby food pouches or my favourite guilty pleasure, Rice Krispies squares.
Similar to pre-workout you want to keep your meal/snack right after training to something with minimal fat and low fibre. Now is not the time to tax your digestive system and eat a mound of broccoli or a giant salad. Allow your body to recover first so it can allocate more energy to digest .
Some more options for carb-supplement on the Canadian market:
If you want to try anything from 5star4mula, you can get 10% off your order by using POWERUP10 at check out.
You can maximize your performance and recovery by paying closer attention to what and when you eat after your workout.
Next up on the blog I will be addressing timing, game day and competition nutrition because when you have to perform multiple times in a short time frame it does change your needs a bit.