Post Workout Meals – What to Eat After Going to the Gym
Choosing good post workout meals are important. What you eat after going to the gym can have a big impact on your muscle recovery rates and growth.
After you’ve put a lot of effort into your workout, you owe it to yourself to follow up all that hard work with a post workout meal that can provide your body if the nutrients it needs.
Choosing an appropriate pre workout meal before going to the gym is important too. Eating the right food prior to training helps you to train harder.
However, all that hard work and pre-exercise planning could be for nothing if you don’t know what to eat after going to the gym and make the wrong food choices.
When it comes to building a strong, lean physique, there’s a certain amount of truth to that old saying…
You are what you eat.
If you choose to skip your post-workout meal or eat a load of crap, you won’t be doing yourself any favours. Choose first-rate after training food choices, do it every time, and you’ll probably be shocked to discover what a difference it will make.
Why Correct Post-Workout Nutrition Is Important
The food choices you make for your post-workout meal can propel you forward in many ways. However, before you can fully understand the reasons why this is so you need to know how exercise affects the body.
The first thing to bear in mind is your muscles cannot do a thing without energy. They get this from the glucose they obtain from food.
When there’s an excess of glucose, the liver converts it to glycogen. It’s a kind of reserve energy supply. When you are working out hard it doesn’t take too long before the glycogen stores start to deplete. [SOURCE]
In addition to depleting the muscles of glycogen, exercise also causes the muscle tissue to break down.
That means after your workout your body is trying to do two very important things:
- Replace its stores of glycogen
- Repair the muscle tissue
Whether you can hear them or not, your muscles are crying out for the right nutrients to make these things possible. The last thing you want to do is make them wait. [SOURCE]
When you eat a suitably nutrient-rich post workout meal it helps your body to make the repairs faster. So, what you need to do is eat plenty of carbs and protein after going to the gym.
The Benefits of Eating a Good Post Workout Meal
When you put some thought into it and do it right, your post-workout meal will do four things:
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown
- Improve protein synthesis
- Restore depleted glycogen stores
- Speed up post-exercise recovery rates
The most apparent tangible benefit you will notice is likely to be less muscle pain after your workout. Over time you will see noticeable improvements in your muscle mass and strength as well.
Let’s Talk Macronutrients
The three macronutrients are carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The two most important ones to include in a post-workout meal are carbs and protein. However, fat can assist your post-workout recovery too but it takes longer to digest.
Let’s take a look at the three macronutrients in more detail.
How Carbs Help Your Post Workout Recovery
So, what’s the big deal about carbs and why do you need to eat them after going to the gym?
Carbs are a big deal because, after your workout, your body will be desperately trying to replace its stores of glycogen. Eating carbs after going to the gym is the best way to help it get the job done.
Interestingly, levels of glycogen depletion can vary according to your chosen activity. For instance, endurance sports like long-distance running cause greater glycogen depletion than resistance training.
So, if you are a bodybuilder, your post-workout meal may not require as many carbs as the post-workout meal eaten by someone who has been running or swimming.
However, bodybuilding will cause a greater need for protein than endurance sports do. Bodybuilding doesn’t give you an excuse to exclude the carbs from your post-workout meal though.
Apart from replenishing your stores of glycogen, the carbohydrate you eat after going to the gym helps improve protein synthesis.
Furthermore, research shows eating a post-workout meal that provides both carbs and protein improves body composition and increases physical strength. [SOURCE]
Research suggests one of the reasons carbs and protein is such a winning combination is due to the effects it has on insulin secretion [SOURCE]
Try consuming a post-workout meal that is three parts carbs and one part protein. For example, 120 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein.
The Role of Protein In Your Post Workout Meals
Exercise causes muscle tissue to breakdown. How fast this happens will depend on the kind of exercise you do and the duration of training. If you are an enthusiastic bodybuilder, your muscles are going to be hit hard.
Eating an adequate amount of protein after going to the gym will provide your muscles with the amino acids they need to make the repairs.
Research shows consuming an adequate amount of protein in a timely manner enhances muscle recovery and growth. Furthermore, it’s equally beneficial in multiple exercise modes. [SOURCE]
So, how much protein do you need? Experts suggest consuming 0.14–0.23 grams of protein for each pound of your body weight. It’s best to do this no longer than 30-45 minutes after your workout.
Why You Should Consider Adding Fat to Your Post Workout Meals
Fat’s a high-calorie food. Eat too much of it and you are going to see your waistline expand. Eating too much fatty food is also bad for the heart. It’s no wonder fat has such a bad rap.
In addition to all of this, fat is also hard to digest. Worse still, when your meals include it, fat can slow down the absorption of other nutrients.
However, although its the bad-boy of the macronutrient clan, fat is still an essential nutrient your body needs. It’s as simple as that.
It’s okay to eat a meal that provides fat after going to the gym. The trick is not to overdo things and to try and go for unsaturated fats as much as possible.
Believe it or not, the results of one study show drinking whole milk after exercise is better than low-fat milk. The presence of the extra fat appears to help the body utilize amino acids and improve protein synthesis. [SOURCE]
So, including a little fat in your post workout meals is no bad thing. Just don’t go wild. Fat may have its virtues but that doesn’t give you an excuse to dash out of the gym and straight into MacDonald’s. A post-workout meal of burger and fries is never going to be a good idea.
Why Timing is Important
It’s not just a case of knowing what to eat after going to the gym. When you eat it is important too. There’s a post-exercise anabolic window and eating during this time will offer the most benefit.
So, if you want to heal faster and enjoy improved muscle growth don’t wait too long before eating your post workout meals. [SOURCE]
According to many experts, if you eat your 30-45 minutes after going to the gym you are doing it right.
Delaying post-workout nutrition further will likely hamper your muscle-building efforts. If you have already eaten a suitably nutritious meal before training, you may have a little more leeway. However, delaying your post workout meals for too long is always unwise.
Some Good Foods to Add to Your Post Workout Meals
The food you eat after going to the gym has to supply your body with the correct nutrients. When it does, it speeds your recovery and helps you get the maximum benefits from your workout.
However, eating the right macronutrients in a timely manner may not be enough if the foods that provide them are too slow to digest. Some foods release nutrients faster than others.
Good Foods to Include In Your Post Workout Meals
Some Post Workout Meals Ideas
Here are a few ideas for post-workout meals that are quick and easy to prepare:
- Grilled turkey breast with vegetables (roasted using olive oil)
- Poached salmon with sweet potato
- Wholemeal bread and peanut butter sandwiches
- Quinoa with berries and walnuts
- Protein shake with strawberries and banana
- Tuna salad sandwich made with wholemeal bread
- Tuna and sweetcorn on wholemeal crackers
- Cottage cheese and pineapple on wholemeal toast
- Rice crackers and peanut butter garnished with slices of fruit
- Greek yogurt and berries or fruit
A Final Note About Post-Workout Hydration
What you eat after going to the gym is important. It’s equally important you don’t forget your body needs to be adequately hydrated too.
The average adult body is 55-60 percent water. [SOURCE]
Being dehydrated is not good so it’s important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. [SOURCE]
Exercise is sweaty work and you don’t just lose water with all that sweat. You lose important vitamins and minerals too.
Many of the lost minerals function as electrolytes within the body. Replenishing them can speed your recovery. A good way to do this is by using a quality sports drink. Failing that, be sure to drink plenty after training and alongside your post-workout meal.