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Post-Workout Nutrition: What, How Much, and When You Should Eat

You just crushed the WOD and you know you need to be eating post-workout. Maybe you’ve heard that you should be getting some sort of protein shake after you workout, but is that enough? What’s the best way to refuel your body after a workout? Here’s a few tips to keep in mind for post-workout nutrition. Some of them might surprise you.

When we workout, our muscle tissues are damaged and broken down. This process allows protein synthesis to occur to create new muscle fibers in the body, ultimately allowing for increases in muscle strength and size. Therefore, we need to provide plenty of protein to the body for utilization in this process following a workout. 

However, it’s not just protein that we need to absorb immediately after a WOD. Glycogen (a carbohydrate complex) serves as the fuel for our muscles through the workout. As we expend energy during exercise, we need to replenish those fuel stores as part of our post-workout nutrition. 

So we need two things:

  1. Protein to aid in muscle repair and protein synthesis
  2. Carbohydrates to replace lost muscle glycogen 

While everyone is different, following an intense workout, you should be consuming around 30g of protein and 15g of carbs. 

But how long do we have to get those nutrients into our body?

There’s no exact window of opportunity, but it’s important to get post-workout nutrition immediately following a workout, as well as a meal in the 2 hours following. Our bodies are better able to absorb nutrients following exercise due to an increased blood flow to the skeletal muscle, meaning that nutrients are floating around more quickly. This is also a key time to provide nutrients to the body as the rate of protein synthesis is highest immediately following exercise. 

As soon as you’ve completed your WOD, it’s time to refuel your body. This means that before you make it to your car, you should be getting both protein and carbs back into your system. 

While whole foods are typically recommended in most circumstances, they digest slowly and since we want these nutrients to be quickly absorbed, whole foods aren’t always the best option for immediate post-workout nutrition. Nutrition in liquid-form, like protein shakes, are ideal for immediately following your workout – plus they are typically better tolerated by the stomach following an intense WOD.
Note that not all pre-made protein shakes have enough carbohydrates present to refuel your glycogen levels, and you therefore may need to add more. Quick digesting carbohydrates such as fruit can be good sources for post-WOD carbs.

You’ve done the WOD, put in the workout, and you want to see the results. Make sure you’re allowing your body to repeat all the benefits of the workout by refueling and promoting muscle growth.

For more help with nutrition, check out our nutrition programs here

~Coach Deidre~