Post-Workout Nutrition

Post-Workout (PWO) Nutrition is a hot topic in the fitness industry. I did a nutrition capstone project my senior year at NC State on the validity of PWO advice in popular media outlets compared to the peer-reviewed clinical research. What we found was that all of the scholarly research recommends consuming a supplement powder form of protein (whey, casein, egg-white, vegan, etc) whereas 50% or more of the popular fitness magazines recommended consumption of a whole food protein source. From my experience working with clients the best thing to eat PWO is what’s convenient and budget friendly for them. In an ideal world, I would tell you to drive home from the gym or the playing field, take a shower and then consume some nutrients. The most current research suggests it is better to wait up to an hour after exercise to consume nutrients. The idea is that your cortisol levels spike and have a “priming effect” on your cells. By waiting an hour to consume nutrients, you are priming your body for uptake of those nutrients. So let’s say you drive home, take a shower and it’s only been 30 minutes since you finished exercise. Not a problem! At that point I would recommend you go ahead and eat something. Now David what on earth should I be eating at this time? I’m glad you asked! It really depends on your goals, bodyweight, sex, and the time of day. For those fasted cardio freaks of the world: I recommend you have a no-carb breakfast like eggs, turkey or beef bacon and coconut or MCT (Medium-Chain Triglyceride) oil and some cruciferous veggies. For someone working out in the morning with a fat loss goal, I recommend a lower carb meal (<30grams from a complex source). For a powerlifter/bodybuilder you will need a moderate carb meal (50-100 grams) to replenish your glycogen stores. If you train in the afternoon, you will want moderate carbs (preferably from a complex sources). For really intense training sessions, you will want to ramp those carbs a little higher than normal (75-150 grams) depending on your bodyweight. In addition, those training later in the day will also want to consume moderate carbs after your exercise session. In an ideal world, you would consume a PWO meal an hour after training as a drink from cluster dextrin (carb source) and a protein blend with at least 3 grams of leucine to hit the clinical threshold for initiating muscle protein synthesis. For the majority of people, this isn’t feasible so I recommend you find a “go-to” meal for your schedule that meets the necessary requirements and is the most convenient for you. Once we sit down and talk through your schedule, I can help you narrow down better meal options for PWO. There’s never a “one-size-fits-all” in nutrition, so it will always depend on multiple variables to narrow down the best food you should be eating for your goals!