The rules of post-workout nutrition

Have you ever heard something related to health and fitness that you just know to be true?

I’m talking about the things every fitness professional and even a number of regular health nuts know as well.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself ‘where did this information come from?’ or ‘how do I know this to be true?’.

Because when we stop and think about it this way we can end up scratching our heads wondering how we did come to believe whatever it is that we believe.

Consider for example the notion of the window for post-workout nutrition timing. This is the idea that to maximize your results in the gym you need to follow your training session with carbs and protein as soon after your last set as possible.

Now before we get to the truth about post-workout nutrition let me tell you a story.

This is one I’m stealing from nutritional expert Alan Aragon and it goes something like this.

A family has a special recipe for pot roast. It is the family’s special meal and all relatives and friends know about it and look forward to having it at gatherings.

Sometimes info gets accepted because of tradition.

Sometimes info gets accepted because of tradition.

Besides the specific cooking instructions there is one unique step involved in preparing this family’s special meal. And that is that after all the seasoning and preparing but before cooking the pot roast you cut off one third.

One family member asked her mom ‘why do we cut off 1/3 of the roast?’. And the mother replied ‘it’s your grandmother’s recipe so you’ll have to ask her’.

So the girl calls her grandmother and asks the same question. Her grandmother answers that many years ago when they started making pot roasts they didn’t have a big enough roasting pan so they cut off 1/3.

Now getting back to the idea of post-workout nutrition what is your understanding on this?

Is it important to have something immediately after training? Or is it ok to wait for a while before you do? And if you do have something what should it be? How much protein and how many carbs?

And once you have answered the questions to all of the above you need to think about where that info came from? This is sometimes the hardest question to answer. People will sometimes give the ‘pot roast’ answer and say ‘that’s just what we’ve always done’.

Can you see how sometimes we can get tripped up in our beliefs if we don’t know or can’t verify the source of the information? We can sometimes ascribe expert authority to:
* the biggest guy in the gym
* the most confident trainer
* the person who has been around the longest

And while it is possible that these people may have the right information they may also have a number of pot roast training tips for you to use.

Stealing a couple more lines from Alan Aragon:

‘Science doesn’t care about being right. It cares about getting closer to the truth’


‘Skepticism is necessary for science’

So not only is it ok to question what you have been told regarding fitness and nutrition it is important that you do.

Now getting back to the rules of post-workout nutrition what the research tells us is that:

The optimal dose is 0.4 to 0.5 g per kg of lean body mass. So if a 80 kg person was 20% body-fat they would have 64 kg of lean body mass and thus consume 25.6 to to 32 g of protein.

And as to adding carbohydrate to the post-workout meal this appears to less important than initially thought. For endurance athletes there may be some benefit but for strength or hypertrophy goals we can probably do just as well with the protein on its own.

Lastly as to how soon we need to eat after training this appears to be more important for athletes than for the general population. And it appears the length of time between pre and post workout meals is more of a determining factor than simply eating as soon after the training session. Typically this should be around 3-4 hours and possibly extended to up to 5-6 hours for training sessions of 45-90 minutes.

To read a complete review of the literature on the topic check out

What about you…what training rules have you been following but aren’t sure what the evidence is? Or what are most people saying with regards to training but you aren’t convinced?

Post these in the comments section below and I’ll cover them in a future blog.

Chris [fb-like]

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