The Power of Post-Workout Nutrition by Tiffany Ma, R.D.N.

One of the most common questions I get asked as a Registered Dietitian is what one should eat after training to ensure they reach their goals. Regardless of what that goal is, post-workout nutrition should always follow a few simple guidelines.

Contrary to popular belief, the “anabolic” window no longer requires you to store your tub of protein in the trunk of your car for an after workout shake. Instead, we know the timeframe in which your body utilizes nutrients to repair and restore nutrients in the body after exercise looks more like it can utilize these nutrients from 24 to even 48 hours!

A gentle guideline can be made to ensure that you aim for sustenance at least within 1 – 4 hours of exercise. These guidelines support stabilized blood sugars, and can help keep motivation somewhat high to ensure we are able to prioritize nutrient-dense food options.

Term to know: 
Nutrient Dense: (of food) having a high vitamin and mineral content in relation to its weight.

The goals of post-workout can be broken down into the three R’s. They are as follows:

 

1. Rehydrating fluids lost from your training session through adequate amounts of water and foods that promote electrolyte balance.

Fluid loss seems to be more of a relevant topic for endurance athletes, but they truly play a role in every sport and exercise. Fluids lost during your training session should be replaced through ingestion of water. A general guideline would be to consume around 8 oz of fluid every 15 minutes post-training. Replacing electrolytes with an enhanced sports drink, or electrolyte powder post-training could be beneficial in these scenarios:

  • If you regularly participate in sweat-inducing conditioning.
  • If you work out for prolonged periods of time.
  • If you work out in a hot and humid environment.

Foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium will also be important to include in your post-workout meal, which include foods such as: white potatoes, spinach, legumes and vegetables.

 

2. Replenishing your glycogen stores through the ingestion of adequate carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are equally as important prior to training, as they are in post-training. Recently trained muscles are more sensitive to carbohydrate intake, which basically means our muscles become more well prepared to increase our uptake of carbohydrates. If possible, try and aim for carbohydrate intake within two hours of training, as doing so within this time frame will only enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis.

Exact carbohydrate amounts will vary from person to person, but a good rule of thumb is to consume around 1g/kg of body weight post exercise for those who strength train. Again, it’ll be important to evaluate overall total carbohydrate for the day to ensure optimal diet quality.

3. Repairing muscle tissue and decreasing muscle protein breakdown by consuming adequate amounts of high-quality protein.

To ensure we are repairing our muscle tissue, and preventing further breakdown, we want to consume an adequate amount of protein post-exercise. However, it is also important to note that studies that look at hypertrophy and protein timing can be a bit conflicting, due to variance in study designs and methodology. If you want specifics, you can try to aim for an intake of 0.4 – 0.5 g/kg of lean body mass during post-exercise. Similar to carbohydrates, it is more important to evaluate what our overall protein intake looks like on a day-to-day basis.

photo credit: @vegan_danielle on Instagram

If you are looking for a means to support post-workout nutrition, without having to over-complicate it–aiming for a high quality protein in the form of a shake is a great way to initiate the recovery process with little leg work. Whey protein isolate is a great choice for most individuals, as the processing allows protein content to stay high, while keeping fat and carbohydrates relatively lower (which can slow down the digestion process).

The amino acid content in True Nutrition’s whey-based powders provides all the important ones for muscle protein synthesis and recovery, such as leucine, isoleucine and valine. TN’s Soy Protein Isolate is another solid option for non-dairy folks as the amino acid profile in soy products emulates the bioavailability that is often seen in whey-based blends. 

Hope you enjoyed this mini series and my take on pre and post-workout nutrition!