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What should you eat after you train?

October 14, 2016

You often hear about the importance of post workout nutrition and that "anabolic window" where all your gains happen. But how important is a post workout meal? And what should it ideally consist of?

First things first: a bit of science

When you do a training session, you start a process where your muscle proteins are broken down. This effect is mild DURING your training session, but it quickly accelerates after. If you are training fasted this process is even stronger, especially around 2 or so hours after training.

Now, muscle breakdown isn’t bad on it's own (and it's actually an important part of the muscle building process) but when the amount of muscle breakdown exceeds the body’s ability to create new proteins, the result is muscle loss. On the other hand when the body creates more muscle cells than it loses, the result is muscle growth/ both the breakdown and the growth are part of building new muscle.

The goal of a post-workout meal is to minimise excessive muscle breakdown, and to stimulate protein synthesis. These two things result in greater total muscle growth.

As far as when to eat the meal, from the research we have available, my advice is to try to eat protein within 1-2 hours of completing your workout, as there’s a good chance that it will help you build more muscle than if you skipped it.

What should we eat to maximise benefit?


Protein in general is the building block for creating new muscle cells & research has shown that protein eaten after a workout gives this process a bit of an extra boost. The effect is not massive but each day that you give your protein synthesis rates a little boost, you build a little more muscle than you would have otherwise built. Over the course of several months, or years, those few grams extra here and there can turn into visible amounts of additional muscle built. Worth it if you ask me, considering building muscle is not the easiest and quickest process.

So basically it is a good idea to have protein within a hour or two after you train. And the obvious next question is how much to have.

It's often said to have 20g of protein post workout, and that is the "recommended dosage", but that would depend on how much muscle you have, how active you are & how old you are (the older you are the more you will need.) It's safe to say getting 30g of protein post workout should cover your bases nicely.

So all in all, protein is a great idea to include in your post workout meal.


Moving onto carbs. While carbs are not as important as protein post workout, depending on the kind of exercise you have done and your goals, it's often a good idea to include some carbs as well. Mainly for when you train at a high intensity, which uses the anaerobic energy system for fuel.

The reason for this is due to a substance known as glycogen which is the form of energy that fuels our high intensity exercise. Our body produces this from carbohydrate, which is stored primarily in the liver and muscles. When training with this energy system keeping your muscles as full of glycogen as you can is important. It improves performance and research shows that when muscle glycogen levels are low, muscle breakdown is accelerated.

So that is a good reason to include carbs in your post workout nutrition, especially if you care about your performance and not just aesthetics. I would recommend around 50g of carbs in the form of starchy carbs of some sort (dextrose, oats, bananas, rice, sweet potatoes etc.).

Along with the above reason, the post-workout depleted also create a handy little (what I will call) carb deficit, which is the prime time to enjoy a large amount of carbs with little-to-no fat storage (as the body will not story carbs as fat until glycogen stores are replenished). This is why I often tell clients that if they are going to eat foods like donuts, pizza, cupcakes etc from time to time, the best time to consume these is post workout.  Of course I am not saying it's okay to eat junk food post workout, but if you are going to eat it, that's definitely the best time of day. Good life hack! You're welcome :)

Post workout meal ideas:

So now that we have established that post workout meal consisting of around 30g of protein and 50g of carbs is a good idea, what are the best meal options?

I'll give you a few ideas below but I think overall for most people a whey protein shake with some carbs like dextrose mixed in or a banana or oats is a good idea.

The reason why I recommend whey protein is because it's absorbed very fast and it's very convenient.  But if for whatever reason you would prefer to not have a protein shake, here are a few other ideas of meals:

-Cottage cheese and a banana

-Chicken breast & a bagel

-Eggs and rice or toast

-Protein bars, i.e. quest bars

-Oats and egg whites

-Cottage cheese, yogurt and oats

-Tuna salad sandwich with lettuce and tomato

-Sushi roll

-Sweet potato and pork/beef/chicken

-Steak and potatoes (can use leftovers)

Hopefully you are starting to get the idea. The food choices don't matter too much, it's more about making sure you get a good protein source with some carbs within an hour or so after you train.

And that sums up today's post. If you liked what you read, found it interesting, or think others might benefit from this info, feel free to share the post. :)




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