WHAT IS THE BEST POST WORKOUT MEAL?
Post workout nutrition has become like a religion in bodybuilding circles.
Known as the “window of opportunity”, the 3-4 hour period immediately following a workout session is considered a critical time to provide your body with high quality protein and carbs to support muscle growth.
Ask almost any “bodybuilding expert” out there, and they’ll tell you that in order to maximize your gains, you must consume a high protein/high carb “post workout shake” immediately after your workout, followed by another solid food meal an hour or so later.
But is post workout nutrition really all it’s cracked up to be? What is the best post workout meal?
First off, let me refute 2 of the major claims made by those who continue to emphasize the “critical importance” of post workout nutrition…
Post Workout Nutrition Myths
Claim #1: You must consume a liquid protein shake immediately following your workout.
The reality is that protein digestion is a very slow and gradual process. Even the fastest absorbing proteins are still only released at a rate of about 8-10 grams per hour.
What this means is that if you consumed a pre-workout meal within a couple hours of your training session, that same protein is still being broken down and utilized both during and after your workout.
For that reason, consuming a new serving of protein immediately after your workout is simply unnecessary.
Claim #2: You must consume a serving of simple carbohydrates along with your protein shake in order to restore glycogen levels and “spike your insulin”.
Glycogen levels are only depleted by a maximum of about 30% after an intense weight training workout. Even then, there is no need to immediately replenish those levels unless you were training the same muscle groups again on the same day.
As for “spiking insulin” levels, proteins elicit a significant insulin response from the body on their own, making additional carbohydrate consumption far less important than most people think.
(For a complete article on this subject, check out my previous “Post Workout Carbs” post.)
Given these two points, it’s fairly clear that there is no need to immediately consume a post workout meal after your training session is over.
Your body still has ample protein in circulation and glycogen levels do not need to be replenished.
Now, I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t eat a post workout meal; all I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be consumed right away.
You certainly want to provide your body with some high quality protein and carbohydrates to facilitate recovery and growth… but if your appetite isn’t there yet, don’t feel bad waiting a couple hours.
So What Is The Best Post Workout Meal?
Well, you really don’t need to overcomplicate things here.
Your 2 basic goals are:
a) Elevate insulin levels in order to halt muscle breakdown.
b) Provide the body with amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis.
There’s no need for some fancy, high-tech concoction of special foods, “high glycemic carbs” and specific fats in order to accomplish this.
The best post workout meal will firstly be based on a high quality protein source.
Whey will be the ideal choice here due to its strong amino acid profile and bio-availability, but ultimately any standard protein source will do.
Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, lean pork, seafood… Any of these are completely fine choices.
The second component of the best post workout meal will simply be any carbohydrate source you’d like.
You don’t need anything specific here. Rice, yams, potatoes, oatmeal, pita… whatever goes best with your protein.
If you do want to go with a standard post-workout shake of whey protein and simple sugars, that’s also fine too. It’s really up to you.
I personally don’t have much of an appetite following workouts and find that a post-workout shake fits nicely for me.
So, that’s really all there is to it when it comes to the issue of the “best post workout meal”.
As long as you consume a good pre-workout meal about 1.5-2 hours prior to your training session followed by a post workout meal of high quality protein/carbs within a couple hours of your workout, you’re good to go.
This combination will provide your body with a sufficient stream of amino acids, sugars and micronutrients to maximize muscle recovery and growth.
You can continue to obsess about nitty-gritty details beyond this, but the only thing it’s likely going to do is unnecessarily over-complicate your nutrition plan.
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