You work hard when you hit the gym, so naturally you want to maximize your efforts. To that end, you hydrate, sip your branched-chain amino acids and make sure to take your performance supplements. But what you consume after your workout is just as important as what you consume before and during your session.
Here’s why: When you exercise, you use up your glycogen stores to fuel your working muscles. Your muscles also experience microscopic damage. After your workout, your body tries to replenish its glycogen stores and repair damaged muscles. Giving your body the nutrients it needs soon after your workout can enhance this process — and your gains.
Does Timing Matter?
Your body wants to repair muscle and rebuild glycogen stores immediately after your workout. That’s why it’s important to include a postworkout meal in your fitness plan. But do you really need to rush to replenish? According to research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, you have up to 90 minutes after re-racking that last weight or completing that last burpee. During this window, your muscles are biochemically primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth and muscle strength. It’s also the perfect opportunity to restore your glycogen stores, which will enhance your recovery.
What to Eat
The ultimate goal of your postworkout meal is to promote recovery and repair while setting the stage for muscle growth. A meal that provides a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein with 20 to 30 grams coming from protein can help restore glycogen levels and shuttle protein into damaged muscles. While a protein shake that provides the right ratio of protein to carbs is a convenient way to replenish your nutrient needs, you can get the same effects with these quick and easy postworkout meals:
- Cottage cheese and peaches or pears
- Rice crackers and hummus
- Greek yogurt, berries and granola
- Banana with almond butter
- Tuna on whole-grain bread
- Grilled chicken and sweet potato
- Deviled eggs and crackers
- Oatmeal mixed with protein powder and topped with bananas