The Lowdown On Post Workout Nutrition...
When it comes to dieting its said that your pre workout nutrition and your post workout nutrition are undoubtedly the two most important factors. with the anabolic window being a short period of time after your workout that you MUST give your muscles the protein and carbohydrates that they're crying out for...
If you've read bodybuilding magazines, been on fitness forums or spoken to other gym-goers about dieting, the subject of post workout meals, shakes and supplements has no doubt reared its head.
"if you don't get in a shake after your workout you wont make any gains..."
"You lose muscle if you don't eat a meal within an hour of training!"
"It's essential you get in some whey protein isolate as soon as you finish the last set of your workout"
There's a ton of wild, absurd and downright ridiculous claims out there, all relating to your physique and your strength taking a tumble for the worse if you dont smash a steak or protein shake immediately after you finish training...
Is post workout nutrition actually that important? Or is it another myth fabricated by fitness magazines, gym-goers and the supplement industry giants?
Let's find out...
Training And Gaining
Building muscle is a process of supply and demand. your time in the gym performing gruelling set after set creates the demand for increased muscle mass as you rip and tear your muscle fibers (with the aim of them growing back stronger). Demand is all well and good, but without supply you're not going to see any tangible results.
That's where post workout nutrition comes in.
Your muscles don't grow in the gym, they grow after you've overloaded them in the gym (demand) and provided adequate nutrition, in this case your calories and macronutrients are the supply.
The Anabolic Window
So does the anabolic window actually exist?!
Do you really need to scour the earth for the fastest acting hydrolized whey protein isolate you can find?
This is where things get a bit shady, as my experience, scientific studies and the mass marketing from the supplement giants conflicts.
In an attempt to separate broscience and actual research with marketing I spent a period of time trying it all...
- Skipping my post workout meal and fasting through to the afternoon (I train at 5am in the morning)
- Eating a large protein and carbohydrate whole food meal straight after training
- Drinking a generic protein shake (containing 50g of whey protein concentrate)
- Drinking the most expensive hydrolized whey protein concentrate I could find
And here's what I found...
It didn't really make much of a difference at all.
When I didn't have a post workout meal until many hours later I found my recovery to be a bit slower, I'd wake up a bit sorer but I certainly wouldn't lose any muscle or immediately hit a plateau.
When I had a full meal, a generic whey protein concentrate shake or an overly priced hydrolized whey protein concentrate shake it really didn't make much difference.
I decided to ditch the full meal immediately after my workout as starting the day with a full stomach leaves me feeling unproductive and lethargic - not exactly what I want at 6:30am with a full day of ass kicking ahead of me.
I ditched the hydrolized whey protein isolate as not only did it taste awful but the cost per serve (for what I deemed to be no tangible benefit over generic whey protein concentrate) just wasn't there.
For cost, convenience and taste my current post-workout shake at 6:30am in the morning consists of:
2 scoops of whey protein concentrate
Finely ground oats
A healthy dose of protein and carbohydrates within 2 hours of putting down the weights.
It tastes damn good too!
The Dreaded Paralysis by Analysis
With the large amount of information out there it's paramount that you don't allow yourself to fall victim to paralysis by analysis.
"What type of shake should I have after my workout?"
"Another fitness blogger had a different open on post workout nutrition..."
"Should I have a shake or eat a proper meal after my workout?"
These are all common questions I get asked time and time again, and upon answering their question I receive a follow up with 4 MORE questions.
Stop over-thinking it and just start doing.
A meal or shake anywhere from immediately to 2 hours after your workout is fine.
I aim for anywhere from 30 grams of protein upwards and 40 grams of carbohydrates upwards.
Whether your protein comes in the form of a grilled chicken breast, an omelette, a generic branded whey protein concentrate shake or the latest hydrolized whey protein isolate that's on the market it doesn't matter so much as long as you
New research, studies and articles are coming out all the time. Some more credible than others.
Stick with what works for you, stick with the option you KNOW you can do and that you will be CONSISTENT with.
If I trained later in the evening would my post-workout nutrition be the same as it is now? Probably not. I'm a big believer in real food over supplements, however deriving protein from a whole food early in the morning doesn't work particularly well for me so I'll stick with my shake.