Is Your Post Workout Meal The Most Important Meal Of The Day?
Here’s some recent research on post-workout meals:
“A recent 12-week study says that those who failed to consume a post workout meal immediately after their workouts suffered a lower metabolism, loss of fat free mass, and had clear indications of muscle loss – while their counterparts (those who consumed a post workout recovery meal) significantly lost more fat, increased lean muscle, improved their metabolism, and increased dynamic strength.”
I have noticed that many people are confused as to what actually makes a good post-workout meal. A couple common questions I receive about post workout meals:
1. Aren’t post-workout meals only important for muscle building? Do they matter at all for fat loss goals?
2. Is it best to use one of the fancy post-workout drinks or shakes that you see in the magazines or is a whole food meal better? What’s the best combo of carbs to protein to fat in a good post workout meal?
3. How soon after a workout is best to have my post workout meal?
1. Post-workout meals are actually vitally important for BOTH muscle building and losing body fat!
Always remember that one of the most important considerations of long term body fat loss and maintaining a lean body for life is raising your overall metabolic rate by building and maintaining adequate lean muscle mass throughout your entire body.
By consuming a good post workout meal after every workout, you assist your body in repairing and building lean muscle throughout your whole body. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate (even when resting)… hence, you lose fat easier and faster, and it is MUCH easier to stay lean in the long term.
2. Are whole foods or supplement shakes best? This can actually be done either way, but I am going to show you some guidelines why some post-workout shakes are better than others and some whole foods are better than others. Either way, it can work.
First, keep in mind that your goal throughout the majority of each day is eating small whole food meals frequently that digest slowly with high fiber and a controlled glycemic response (blood sugar). These normal daily meals should also contain healthy fats and slowly digested proteins to maintain a steady supply of amino acids.
When it comes to post-workout meals, you can just about use the exact opposite strategy of your normal meals. With post-workout meals, you actually want a faster digesting carb source to stimulate an insulin response. This helps to push nutrients and glycogen back into your muscle cells for repair. Remember, this is not just important for building muscle, but also for losing fat.
So while I always preach high fiber for most of your meals, with post-workout meals, you actually want lower fiber, higher GI carbohydrates, and quickly digesting protein as well to kick start muscle repair.
Another consideration to keep in mind… while I always preach healthy fats at most of your meals… with the post workout meal, you actually want almost all carbohydrates and protein, and very little fat. Fat in the post workout meal just slows the absorption and glycemic response which is not what you want at this key time.
What about the best ratios of carbohydrates and protein?
I have reviewed dozens of studies on this subject and most seem to agree that a ratio of approx 2 to 1 carbs to protein is optimal. This seems to be the best combo to maximize muscle repair to boost that metabolic rate for long term body fat loss.
I usually make my post-workout shakes using a frozen banana, whey protein, water, and some real maple syrup (not the cheap high fructose corn syrup based maple syrups at most stores) and aim for about a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein in the shake.
If you want to make things a little simpler, one of the best post-workout shakes that I’ve found that is already mixed in a 2:1 carb:protein ratio is Prograde’s Varsity Post-Workout mix. You can find it at the bottom of this page.
3. How soon should you eat (or drink) your post-workout meal once your done working out?
As soon as you can after your workout (the sooner the better)!
Studies have shown that the sooner you consume your post workout meal following your intense workout, the better your muscle recovery will be, and a higher quantity of the carbohydrates ingested will be used for muscle glycogen replenishment instead of other uses.
The first thing I do when I get back from the gym is make my post workout shake, and this is about 10 min after finishing my workout.