Should You Avoid Eating Fat After Working Out? Here's What 13 Studies Say
Eating fat after working out might be classed as heresy in gyms around the world. A bodybuilding no-no. And a surefire way to slow down the process of building muscle.
But what does the research say? Can you eat fat after working out and still optimise your gains?
In this article, you'll discover how fat impacts the process of building muscle. And how it does (or doesn't) influence replenishment of muscle glycogen.
So if you've resisted adding a spoonful of peanut butter to your post-workout shake for fear of a fat fuck-up, read on. Because it's time to end this big fat debate.
And if you'd prefer to listen to the audio version of "Should You Eat Fat After Working Out?", click the play button below.
The Theory Behind NOT Eating Fat After Working Out
Fat gets bad press in many aspects of nutrition. Especially, when it comes to what you should eat after training.
Popular belief is that eating fat after working out slows down the digestion of nutrients vital for building muscle and recovery. It's almost as if fat creates a blobby barrier to gains. Carbs can't get through to replenish energy levels. And protein can't piggyback on the anabolic carb-shuttle and maximise those post-workout gains.
But before we turn fat into the pariah of nutrition, let's consider the facts.
Firstly, fat has positive associations with building muscle.
Low intakes of dietary fat have been positively correlated with low resting serum testosterone concentrations in both men and women. It has also been shown that low fat diets have significantly lower sex steroid hormone concentrations. For example, a 1984 study showed a significant difference between diets containing 20% versus 40% of calories from dietary fat.
And it doesn't stop there. Fat also helps with strength. So all-in-all, dietary fat seems pretty important for optimising gains. And that's without even considering the overall health benefits.
But what about the specifics of eating fat after working out? Time to tackle this blob of bro-science BS.
The Research On Eating Fat After Working Out
Confession time. I was once of the belief that eating fat after working out was a bad thing. I was a bro who well-and-truly bought into the bro-science. But I've seen the light. And now it's time for you to have a nutritional epiphany.
Eating Fat After Training And Muscle Glycogen
Restoring muscle glycogen is important for improved workout performance. But in practical terms, fat isn't going to inhibit this process. At least not to any measurable degree.
In fact, a study in 2004 showed that adding as much as 1,500 calories from fat into a post-workout meal did not affect glycogen replenishment, as long as enough carbohydrates were present.
This theory is further supported by another 1985 study showing no difference in glycogen storage over a 24 hour period, with or without fats in the post-workout meal.
However, both of these studies focused on aerobic performance. So is there any difference when it comes to resistance training?
The short answer is NO. A study comparing a carbohydrate drink versus a carb, protein and fat drink showed "similar rates of muscle glycogen re-synthesis after resistance exercise."
Do You Even Need To Worry About Muscle Glycogen Replenishment?
All this talk of muscle glycogen replenishment is interesting. But we're in danger of getting lost in the weeds. Because for 99% of the population (statistic made up) it's largely irrelevant.
Unless you're planning to train again within a short space of time, there's no need to rapidly replenish muscle glycogen. This will happen naturally over a 24 hour period through your habitual diet.
And the whole thing about carbs acting as a protein transporter to fuel the gains... That's BS too. Because you don't need carbs to augment Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS). In fact, when protein levels are sufficient to trigger MPS, insulin is also increased to sufficient levels.
So that's muscle glycogen done. What about those all-important gains? Let's look at the research into whether or not eating fat after working out slows down the process of getting jacked.
Eating Fat After Training And Gastric Emptying
A study in 1994 did highlight faster gastric emptying with low-fat meals. Indicating this may be better in the post-workout period.
"So the bros were right!"
Not so fast with the assertions, my friend. Because, like any study, there are limitations.
In this particular study, the calorie content of the post-workout meals wasn't matched. And this appears to be particularly significant when understanding gastric emptying. Because there is a linear relationship between the number of calories consumed and the speed of gastric emptying.
Essentially, as long as calories are matched, and you're hitting the required amount of protein needed for MPS, you can eat fat after working out without compromising gains.
The Bottom Line On Eating Fat After Working Out
Eating fat after working out is fine. It doesn't inhibit muscle glycogen replenishment or muscle protein synthesis. Once you optimise post-workout nutrition for protein, the macronutrient content of this meal is less important.
Should you eat fat after working out? The answer is... If you want to.
The notion that fats slow gastric emptying and impacts MPS is not strictly true. The calorie density of the meal is what affects the rate of digestion and absorption. So don't tie yourself up in knots trying to minimise fat in your post-workout meal.
Instead, focus more on getting sufficient protein in the first 3 hours after training to maximise MPS. If you want to include carbs and fat in the meal, then fill your boots. Those fat molecules aren't going to belly flop on the protein particles, pinning them down like a school bully. In reality, they can all still get along.
What are your thoughts on eating fat after working out? Has this article motivated you to switch-up your post-workout nutrition? Or are you still going to avoid fats after training like the plague? Let me know in the comments below.
Here's The Next Step In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
After reading this article, you might be excited at the prospect of transforming your physique and fulfilling your genetic potential. And to do that, you need training, nutrition, and mindset to be aligned.
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