Is Post workout nutrition critical for making progress?
Post workout nutrition is one of those topics that comes up again and again. The bro's in the gym will tell you that it's super important and that you need to rush to grab that protein shake as soon as you finish your very last rep. Because if you don't then you'll miss the opportunity to make the most of your training.
But are the bro's right? Have they finally got an aspect of good nutrition right?
Well the short answer is NO. Once again, an aspect of your nutrition has been blown out of all proportion in terms of its importance.
So in this article I'm going to set the record straight. And you're going to get the simple, practical advice you need to make progress, without worrying about things that don't matter that much.
And that's important. Because getting in shape is hard enough. So you don't need a ton of information and rhetoric thrown at you that won't actually help you very much.
I promise you this article is free of post workout nutrition BS. And I haven't got a post workout supplement to ram down your throat. This is definitely not a sales pitch for a shitty product that won't have any effect on your progress.
Simple. Honest. Personal. That's the Iron Paradise Fitness way. And that's what you're going to get.
All the answers you'll ever need on post workout nutrition
So in this article, you'll find out all you need to know about post workout nutrition. Here's a look at what you can expect over the next few paragraphs.
- Post workout nutrition timing. Is it important? And what's the best approach?
- How to manage your macros for good post workout nutrition.
- Post workout supplements. Are they essential?
- Are protein shakes the only option for post workout nutrition?
And on top of all that, you'll get an insight into my own personal post workout nutrition. But don't get too excited, it's pretty basic. Although, it has served me well for the last 3 years and counting. So it may be basic, but it's goddamn effective!
Post Workout Nutrition: How Important is Timing?
In the grand scheme of things, meal timing is not that important. You can still lose fat and / or build muscle without paying much attention to it. Of course, that's under the assumption you're already focusing on the important things like calories and protein.
To illustrate that point. Here's an infographic that shows you the building blocks of effective fat loss.
As you can see, meal timing isn't the first aspect of your nutrition that you should be focusing on. The essentials start with calories, understanding your macros, and making good food choices. Once you have that in place, then meal timing can start to make a difference to your progress.
And if your goal is to build muscle then the principle is exactly the same. All you need to do is replace 'Calorie Deficit' with 'Calorie Surplus'. And remember not to go crazy with that surplus. Because it's not a license to eat your bodyweight in pizza every day. Start yourself off with a 10% increase on your maintenance calories and aim for around 0.5kg of weight gain per month. After all, it's not about seeing how quickly you can get fat.
At the end of the day, your main focus is on the basics.
Calories matter, protein matters, food quality matters. Meal timing matters much less.
But let's assume that you've build that solid foundation and want to squeeze out more progress. You work hard in the gym and you want to make sure you're making the MOST progress possible. How crucial is that post workout nutrition?
Why is post workout nutrition important?
Each and every day your body goes through the process of breaking down and rebuilding muscle proteins. And this is all normal for day to day functions. But when you add resistance training or any form of exercises for that matter, things change.
Exercise slows down the rate of protein synthesis, which is the process of building muscle. And the research also shows that the rate of muscle protein breakdown remains the same. "So what the hell does that mean?", you might ask. The bottom line is that if breakdown exceeds synthesis over time, then you're losing muscle. And you probably don't need me to tell that's not good if you're aim is build / retain lean muscle.
And with all that in mind, you can see why the bro's of the gym tell you to reach for the post workout nutrition ASAP!
But while it's important to maintain high levels of protein synthesis, the reality behind post workout nutrition timing is not as critical as it may seem.
Is it necessary to consume your post workout nutrition in the "anabolic window"?
When it comes to post workout nutrition, you won't go long without hearing the phrase "anabolic window". And your first reaction is probably "WTF is that?".
Don't worry, you're not alone. The fitness industry has an knack of coming up with phrases that no-one understands. All in an effort to make you think it's important and you should pay attention. And in the worst cases, they're created to confuse you and try to sell you something.
The Anabolic Window is not a hatch in the gym through which you buy steroids. No. In fact, the anabolic window is just the period of time post workout that your body can make maximum use of the nutrients you feed it. So the first 20-60 mins after you finish training is crucial to making progress.
Or so they would have you believe...
The reality of the anabolic window
As much as I'd love to say your favourite gym bro is right, I can't. Because the post workout anabolic window is not the big deal they'd have you believe.
All the evidence points to the 'anabolic window' being much longer than previously thought. Scientific research indicates that it's more important to focus on the window between pre and post workout, and not just the post workout.
In fact that window is c.3-4 hours wide. So if you were to train at 12pm for an hour, you might have your pre workout at 11am. Therefore, you'd have between 1pm - 3pm to have your post workout protein.
So, the consensus is that it is far more important to concentrate on your protein intake throughout the day, rather than worry about the 20 minute post-workout window.
Post Workout Nutrition - Protein
Should you consume protein after you workout?
Well, the short answer is yes. Having some protein after you train is a good thing. And here's why.
Protein is the single most important nutrient when it comes to building (and preserving) lean muscle. It provides the body with the nutrients required to repair and build muscle. Basically, keeping protein high will dramatically effect how much lean muscle you have.
Why is protein so important in your post workout nutrition?
Earlier we talked about protein synthesis and protein breakdown. And more importantly, the fact you need to to keep the balance in favour of protein synthesis.
And the best way to do that is with eating or drinking protein after you train. This will get the scales tipping in the favour of synthesis over breakdown.
When you consume protein your body begins the process of breaking it down into its component amino acids. It then gets into your bloodstream, after which lots of science-type stuff happens in the body and protein synthesis begins.
How much protein should you have post workout?
As a general rule about 20-40g of protein is ideal for your post-workout nutrition. You don't need to consume your bodyweight in protein. Just enough to move your body into protein synthesis as quickly as possible.
Consume 20-40g of protein, within a couple of hours of your workout.
And that will work for most people. If you're on the small side then lean towards the lower end of the scale. If you're a bigger dude, then dump an extra scoop of whey in that shaker.
What type of Post Workout Protein do you need?
The type of protein you choose to eat / drink with your post workout nutrition is largely your choice. But there are some more sensible options you should consider.
Leucine is probably something you've never heard of. But it is one of the key elements in the process of building lean muscle. And therefore you need to make sure your food choices are high in Leucine.
I can already see your face screwing up as I write this. "Simon. I don't even know what Leucine is. How the fuck do I make sure I'm getting enough?". Ok. Calm down, I've got your back as usual and kept things real simple for you.
There's loads of protein foods that have a ton of Leucine. Beef, chicken, pork, nuts, etc to name just a few. And then there's whey, which is also very high in Leucine.
So that's pretty much why a whey protein shake is the go to choice for most people as post workout nutrition. As much as I love a good steak, whizzing one up in a blender with some milk doesn't sound like my idea of fun. So the humble protein shake serves just fine for you post workout nutrition.
Do you HAVE to have a protein shake post workout?
Not really would be the answer to that question. But ask yourself what's most convenient and enjoyable for you, And if that's a sirloin steak, then go for it. But most people just want something quick and convenient. So that protein shake fits the bill nicely.
The Bottom Line on Post Workout Protein
In summary, consuming protein as part of your post workout nutrition is a good idea. Because you're going to shift your body into a state protein synthesis quickly.
The importance and timing of that protein is largely dependant on when you last ate. The anabolic window is largely a myth and certainly not as short as some people would have you believe.
So consume 20-40g of protein, within a couple of hours of training. The only deviation from this is if you're training fasted (there's no real need to do that though). In this situation, consume some protein as soon as possible.
And in terms of what protein to eat, then whey protein is going to to be the best bet for the majority of you.
Post Workout Nutrition - Carbohydrate
The popular theory is that you need carbs as part of your post workout nutrition. And the reason given is that it'll help the muscle building process by shuttling nutrients (more specifically protein) to your muscles.
And that all sounds great, but the research suggests that those post workout carbs are not necessarily having the dramatic effect you think they are.
The reason people bang on about post workout carbs so much is the rise in insulin levels they cause. However, those carefully set-up studies show that insulin levels don't need to rise very much for protein synthesis to occur. And the protein you'll be having post workout will raise those insulin levels enough.
But having said that, carbs will elevate insulin levels for longer, which is advantageous for muscle growth. Ultimately, that's why I favour higher carb diets over low carb diets all day long. Not to mention the fact their less restrictive and easier to stick to.
Do carbs have any benefit as part of your post workout nutrition?
Carbs do have other benefits outside of the perceived ones I just mentioned.
Replacing energy (in the form of muscle glycogen) is important for maintaining performance in the gym. Because you need that energy to lift effectively. Obviously, if you're in a calorie deficit then you will be depleted of glycogen to a degree, so you won't be fully stocked up. But the process is still important.
However, the importance of replacing glycogen via your post workout nutrition is in question. Because research shows that there's pretty much no difference in performance unless you intend to train later that same day. Therefore, the main thing is to keep carbs high and focus on replenishing throughout the day. There's no need to rush to cram everything in as part of your post workout nutrition.
How much carbohydrate should you have post workout?
So with all things considered, the amount of carbs you need post workout comes down to personal preference. I like to have some carbs in my post workout nutrition for 2 reasons (none of them science based).
Firstly, I simply like the taste of a protein shake mixed with a couple of bananas. It tastes awesome and is something I look forward to every time I train.
And then secondly, I like to spread my carbs throughout the day. Having meals that are very high in carbs sit heavy in the belly and make me feel a little a little lethargic. Now there's no science behind that. It's just what works for me.
And it's important to never forget that. Science is great. But sometimes doing what works for you is also good.
The Bottom Line on Post Workout carbs
In summary, post workout nutrition doesn't NEED to include carbs. Because the protein you'll have will spike insulin levels enough. And by maintaining a high carb diet, your muscle glycogen will be replaced during the day. But if if it suits you, and you like it, then by all means have those carbs.
Post Workout Nutrition - Fats
Fats in your post workout nutrition is pretty much up to you.
The inclusion of fats is largely irrelevant and probably not worth worrying about. At least not to any great degree. Studies have shown that adding fat to your post workout meal makes no real difference. And it doesn't make your post workout nutrition less effective.
So, if you fancy having some fats, then go for it.
In the past, I've added a spoonful of peanut butter to my post workout shake. But I'll be honest, that was more to do with a desire to eat more peanut butter as opposed to optimising my nutrition.
What Does My Post Workout Nutrition Look Like?
When it comes to post workout nutrition my approach isn't that different to what I have pre workout.
Here's what I do to combine these guidelines for a great tasting pre workout shake:
- 250ml Unsweetened Almond Milk
- 2 x Banans
- 1 x Scoop Whey Protein
- 5g Creatine
And that's it. No complicated supplements. Just a few ingredients thrown in a blender to have when I've finished training.
The macros come in at PROTEIN - 27g, CARBS - 71g, FAT - 4g. So you can see that I prefer to get a good dose of protein and a fairly high amount of carbs, with minimal fat. Now it's important to reiterate that you don't need to do things exactly like that to make progress. Especially, if you haven't got many calories to play with. It may be wiser to reduce the carb intake and save those precious calories for later.
Post Workout Nutrition - What About Supplements?
There's not much to say here when it comes to supplements.
As much as you might like to think there is, there's no magical pill or powder that'll bring those gains any faster. But there is one supplement I would recommend taking as part of your post workout nutrition if your goal is focused on strength and power.
How to set up the perfect meal plan
Post workout nutrition isn't the be all and end all, but it does make sense to get it right once you have the basics in place.
So if you need help setting up those basics then your next logical question is probably "how do I set up a good meal plan?". And that's a great question. Because setting up a good meal plan can make or break your success. Get a meal plan that is restrictive and dull, and you'll being ditching it within in weeks. However, set yourself up with one full of foods you enjoy and you can achieve your goals while enjoying yourself at the same time.
So if that sounds good then you can join the Iron Paradise Fitness '7 Steps to Get Lean free online nutrition workshop. All you need to do to register your place is click the image below. In the workshop you'll discover the exact approach I use with all my clients to achieve great results. You'll learn everything you need to build a plan that will help you lose body fat and build muscle, quickly and enjoyably.
Click on the image below, register for free, and get your dieting on a budget plans off to the best start.
And here's want to do if you want to take the headache out of the process
Finally, if you still feel a little overwhelmed then why not check out the Iron Paradise Fitness online coaching programme.
I can take the headache and time out of getting everything set up for you. All aspects of your training and nutrition are taken care of and done for you.
And each element is truly personalised. So you're not getting something off the shelf and generic. Every programme is 100% unique and generated from scratch using information you provide.
So if you want to find out more information and see what else is included in this comprehensive programme, then just click the button below.