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What Food to Eat After a Workout?

Anyone can gain 10 pounds of weight if it is a combination of fat and muscle. But to achieve lean muscle tissue we need the right nutrition.

A great workout never ends in the gym itself. If you need dramatic results your diet game needs to be on point.

When we workout and put our body to stress, our muscle fibers undergo microscopic damage. Which is good for muscle growth. But without nutrition, it will not repair itself effectively.

Now, as we complete our workout, we deplete our glycogen stores and tear down muscle fibres.

Some might say you should try and replenish your glycogen stores within 30 minutes after you are done with your workout. That is not true in any sense. A study done in McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario shows that the muscle protein synthetic rate after a heavy workout is elevated by 50% in 4 hrs, and by 109% in 24 hrs. (1)

But post workout meal is important for you if you have done fasted training or if you have not consumed anything 2 hrs prior to your workout. On the other hand if you have had your pre-workout meal 1 hr before your workout and you worked out for 1 hr, you can have your post workout meal after 4-5 hrs of completing your workout.

What to eat for quick recovery?

There has been this misconception that you need large quantities of protein for gaining muscle mass. The fact that our muscle is only 22% protein suggests that our daily protein intake doesn’t need to be very high. You don’t need 2g protein for each pound of body weight. That is just a waste of resources and money.

If you consume any nutrient more than it is actually needed by your body, it will either be excreted or stored as fat. Now, you don’t want that. We should learn to divide our caloric consumption between the macro-nutrients.

Many nutritional experts and scientists suggest that our daily diet should consist of 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 15% fat. However, a lesser percentage of carbohydrate and more of fat can be introduced in the diet depending on what you want to achieve. There are many low carb diets that work fine. But if you are willing to gain some muscle mass carbohydrate is essential in every diet. You can never turn your back on carb completely.

The food we consume after a workout should help us easily absorb the nutrients from it.
So, here is what we should consume after a strength workout.

  1. Water: Our biochemical processes to take place in our body need a medium and that medium is water. Our muscle is more than 70% water. Our joints and limbs need water for lubrication and the waste and toxic components of our body need to be removed through urine and feces. Drinking at least 1 liters of water after a heavy workout session can and will keep you hydrated.
  2. Protein: Protein is essential for the maintenance of good health as it helps to repair damaged tissues. But people should not be blinded by its benefits and consume it in large amounts. The daily intake of protein should be 0.7-0.8g per kilogram of body weight. That would mean a bodybuilder weighing 220 lbs would need 80g protein every day. Now, that is affordable and can be easily consumed. Some sources of protein are- eggs (6g protein per egg), nuts (7g protein per ounce of any nuts), salmon (20g protein per 100g of it), chicken breast (31g protein per 100g of it), cottage cheese
  3. Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are a vital nutrient in everybody’s diet. People who undergo a low carb diet will agree with me on this that a low carb diet is not sustainable. It can be great for weight loss but staying on a low carb diet for too long will shrink your muscle. But neither is a high carb diet good as it leads to insulin resistance and diabetes. So keeping your carbohydrates around 50%-60% of your calorie intake is a good way of dealing with this problem. Another way of managing carb is carb-cycling which I will write about in my upcoming posts. Some good sources od carbohydrates are- Sweet potato, Quinoa, whole grain bread, brown rice.
  4. Fats: Fats are not the reason you are getting obese. In fact fat is important fuel source which if tapped can be used for energy when the glycogen stores are depleted. Many fat soluble vitamins can be consumed by the body only in presence of fats. So, fat is crucial for everybody. Some good sources of fat are- nuts, avocado, dark chocolate, coconut oil.

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Hi, I'm Pankaj Sinha, Co-founder of which discusses everything related to health and fitness and sometimes things related to science. I am from NE, India. I hold a bachelor's degree in Chemistry and these days I am pursuing my masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. I am also pursuing my personal trainer certification. Learn more about me in the about us section.

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