You have probably heard that the post workout meal is the most important meal of the day. Because your muscles are starved for replenishment and energy, they are eager to soak up whatever you give them. After your workout is complete is the time your body is most likely to use nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues and cells. So feed it good! The faster you can replenish lost nutrients, the faster your recovery time will be, and the sooner you can train again.
One of the most important responsibilities of post workout nutrition is to replenish lost glycogen. Glycogen is essentially a stored form of glucose, a source of energy for tissues and cells. When your muscles are fatigued, such as during an intense weight lifting session, your glycogen will be released and converted into glucose to supply the energy needed to keep lifting the weights. At the end of your workout, your glycogen is depleted and needs to be replenished. The sooner glycogen is replenished, the faster the body is able to repair damaged tissues.
To replenish lost glycogen, one of the best sources is dextrose, or corn sugar. It most closely resembles glucose, so as soon as it enters the body it can be shuttled into the muscles with the least amount of work needed. Dextrose should be taken immediately after your workout, and no more than 30 minutes post workout. Try 25-30g of dextrose and see how you feel; adjust your dosage accordingly. Some people need more, some need less, depending on how hard you trained that day.
If you sweat a lot during your workout, you also need to replenish lost electrolytes. Try the small electrolyte packets that mix with water. These do not have added flavorings, colorings or artificial sweeteners.
After drinking your dextrose/electrolyte mixture you should feel pretty good and the fatigue should be lessened. After about 20-30 minutes of replenishing your glycogen, it’s time for your post workout meal. This is where you will receive the bulk of your nutrients that will facilitate the repair process.
The post workout meal (PWM) should consist largely of protein and carbohydrates with minimal fat. You do not want dietary fat to slow down your digestion, as you want the nutrients to be assimilated to your muscles as quickly as possible. The ratio for carbs to protein is 3:1, with 3 parts of carbohydrates for every 1 part of protein. So if you eat 25g of protein in your PWM, you should also eat 75g of carbs. This may seem like a lot, but your muscles need it; this will the be the highest carb consumption of your day.
The type of carbs you choose is also very important. Choose mid-to-high glycemic carbs so they can be digested fairly quickly. Again, you do not want a lot of fibrous or complex carbs to slow down digestion and assimilation.
After your dextrose drink and PWM you should be recovered from any fatigue and feeling fairly good. For the rest of the day try to stick with low glycemic carbs, protein and essential fats.
Immediately after workout (no more than 30 minutes post workout, the sooner the better):
- 25-30g of dextrose mixed with water
- Electrolytes (as needed)
- 3:1 ratio of mid-to-high glycemic carbs to protein. For example 25g protein with 75g carbs, minimal fats
- Suggested carbs are rice, white potatoes, corn, pasta, bread, bananas
- Suggested proteins are whey, lean fish, chicken, lean turkey, lean beef, egg whites, tofu