The seven golden rules of post-workout nutrition
The seven golden rules of post-workout nutrition
Training does not make you fitter, not on its own anyway. In reality training makes you less fit because if you’ve done your job properly and pushed yourself beyond your current limits you will have caused your body to begin breaking itself down. Do your recovery job properly and this is where the fitness is developed as the body, in response to training stress, rebuilds stronger than it was before. This means recovery, not training, is where all of your gains are made (or lost) which is why getting your post-workout nutrition right is so important.
Want the good news? Post-workout nutrition is actually pretty simple. All it requires is attention to the seven golden rules below to put yourself in the sweet spot for max improvement from all training efforts.
Post-workout nutrition rule 1: eat plenty, eat well
The accepted wisdom for nutrition after a workout is that you should absolutely pile on the protein, while also adding a side of carbs, and that's it. This half-baked nonsense has been peddled for years now by companies who sell nothing more than protein and carbs, and who have spent a small fortune manipulating shoddy science to ‘prove’ their case.
So let’s clear a few things up.
Protein does indeed help muscles rebuild, and carbs are useful for fuel. But these two macronutrients are available in all food and quality is everything. Powder, particularly whey powder is the worst and lowest-quality choice you could make.
Instead our recommendation for acing your protein/carb needs post-workout is to make a great, healthy meal or snack using real food.
Good options include:
- Beans on toast
- Peanut butter and banana on rice cakes
- DIY smoothie in the blender with oats, almonds, fruit and water. Oats and almonds are great protein sources, fruit is an ideal carb source
- Any take on the classic ‘beans and rice’ theme, well loaded with veggies
Rule #6: s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Post-workout nutrition rule 2: go beyond carbs and protein
For max results after your biggest sessions you’re also going to need:
- Anti-inflammatories to bring down the inflammation brought on by your efforts and get you ready to repeat as soon as possible
- Adaptogens to help your body adapt powerfully to changing stimuli brought on by your training
- Antioxidants to fortify your immune system because heavy training weakens it fast and nothing wrecks a heavy training block faster than a cold
- Plenty of alkalysing foods to reduce the increased acidity brought on by training stress. Imagine training sets your body on fire, that’s the acidty kicking in. Alkalysing foods (leafy greens, algaes like spirulina) put the fire out
Cover this lot and you will power up your recovery beyond belief, not only maxing out your training results, but also being able to go harder, sooner the next time around which will further accelerate your gains. It's a beautifully virtuous circle.
It's also quite a list of nutritional requirements, but most can be covered with a great diet packed with a wide variety of fruit, veggies, legumes, seeds and nuts.
We get that isn’t always on hand though, and we also get that working all of these elements into your diet in the ideal quantities and from the finest sources is challenging when you're already busy with life, which is why our Pre and Post Workout Shakes let you nail all of the above in one tasty hit and are the only products anywhere to do so. When your recovery really matters, give them a shot.
Post-workout nutrition rule 3: timing
The whole ‘recovery window’ thing can largely be ignored. There is no vital urgency to stuff your face within a set time period. It is true however that the body is more responsive to anything you eat after a hard session, and science has this period lasting anywhere from an hour to 24 hours depending on which studies you read.
The key is to be mindful you need to eat well soon after your session, any more is unnecessary complication.
Post-workout nutrition rule 4: hydration
You’ve hit it hard in training, so you’ve likely sweated buckets. This water now needs putting back in so drink lots of... water. Just water. It’s as simple as that. Keep pouring it in until you can pee clear instead of radioactive orange.
Ignore the sports drinks (laced with sweeteners, additives and other assorted sh*te), and avoid the chocolate milk - the idea this is a good post-workout has been planted by the dairy industry to help milk sales. Dairy is in fact a bad choice for athletes and anyone bothered about their health period.
Post-workout nutrition rule 5: electrolytes
In all that sweat you lost during your session, there were also a bundle of minerals you now need to replace.
Sports nutrition companies the word over will sell you overpriced fizzy pills to do this, but these are about as hopeless as whey protein for both health and performance thanks to containing more synthetic additives and sweeteners than actual beneficial elements.
Instead, you can get these magic things called electrolytes (salt and potassium basically) from real food. Better quality, better for you, there’s really no contest. So for your salts be conscious to add extra salt to your food, and for potassium have a banana, they’re packed with the stuff.
Post-workout nutrition rule 6: body maintenance
Stretching, yoga, foam rollering, whatever your body maintenance of choice make the time to cover this one off properly.
Flaking out on the sofa is mighty tempting after a weekend workout, hitting the office for a day at a desk after a weekday workout is all-too-often mandatory, but neither are going to maximise the benefits and effects of all that effort you’ve just put in.
Quite the opposite, they’re going to reduce your gains if you don’t make a few minutes here and there to ease out the kinks, roll out those tired muscles and get some gentle movement in (short walks are ideal for this).
Rule #7: get fed, get watered, get zeds
Post-workout nutrition rule 7: sleep
This rule is a lazy bugger’s dream because you really can get fit while you sleep. As long as you’re well fed, watered and stretched, great sleep is where you’ll really pile the recovery miles on so for the best gains, nail this as best you can. This blog post will help for all things sleep-related.
Now we did say there were seven golden rules, and there are. But there’s one more we’d like to add and it’s this
Post-workout nutrition rule 7.1: beware the ‘woop woop’ effect
What is the ‘woop woop’ effect?
This is where you smash a hard session and are so pleased with your discipline, focus and performance that you clean forget rules 1-7 above and instead pile down a boatload of chips, cake, ice cream and booze before flaking out in a heap.
It’s a great ‘reward’ at the time, but the end result is only going one way - you, erasing your gains, before you even got them. Doh.
The junk food increases acidity and inflammation at a time when you need to do the exact opposite, the booze dehydrates when you need rehydration, and the two combined with flaking out in a heap guarantee sore, knackered muscles as well as a crappy night’s sleep.
Beer: not a recovery drink after all. Sorry folks
So when the ‘woop woop’ effect hits you have three options which are below - deploy as needed:
1 You’re building up to a major goal: this is the time to ignore all woop woop options. If your goal matters, you need max recovery. Anything less and you’re just ripping yourself off
2 You’re headed for a big goal but are a way out and are feeling good: this is the hardest place, the middle ground - here you can let the woop woop in a bit if you like, but make sure you offset it with the best food, some body maintenance, and plenty of water beforehand as well as a great night’s kip afterwards
3 You’ve just acheived a huge goal: this is where you can go woop woop all you want when the fancy takes you, but if you want to be able to move the next day we'd still recommend bringing max nutrition, loads of water and all the sleep you can muster to the party.
So there you have it, the seven golden rules of post-workout nutrition as well as how to handle the woop woop effect when it hits. Train hard, race awesome, recover like a boss. Here's to your performance!