You have no doubt heard tips on what and when to eat after a workout. Some of these tips may be conflicting. Is there a way to maximize meal timing for weight loss? Should you load up on protein within 20 minutes of finishing a workout? Within 30 minutes? Some sources say you should eat carbohydrates within an hour, while others say not to eat at all. Let’s take a look at what the truth about the post-exercise meal is and examine the many myths surrounding it.
The Most Important Part
The simple truth is that what you eat after a workout, and the timing, is important, but not as much as you may think. Your meal intake throughout the day is really the key to fitness and getting the body you want much more than meal timing for weight loss or muscle growth. Furthermore, carbohydrates are not the enemy of workouts we once thought. In fact, carbohydrates are a necessary part of muscle building. However, simple carbs (refined sugars, processed and bleached flour, etc.) lead to unhealthy weight gain and should be replaced with healthier complex carbs (whole-grain wheat, starchy vegetables, beans).
New Post-Workout Rules
The goal for any post-workout meal is to increase muscle synthesis. However, this should not be dealt with in isolation from what was eaten throughout the day. Glycogen (what fuels your muscles) can be replenished with only 350 to 500 grams of carbohydrates. Furthermore, insulin, which helps your body reconstruct muscles, is more “permissive” rather than “stimulatory” as one study finds. Thus, when planning meal timing for weight loss and muscle regeneration, avoid massive insulin spikes. Protein alone can be enough to regulate insulin, or even a moderate pairing of protein and carbs.
Eating Before and After
Though the myth of eating “fast-acting” carbs immediately post-workout has been circulating for some time, the truth is that your body is not as carbohydrate dependent as we have been lead to believe. Furthermore, the food you ate before your workout can be just as valuable as what you eat after. Insulin levels can remain elevated for several hours, so eating a protein-rich meal along with complex carbohydrates can be a real benefit rather than meal timing for weight loss alone. The truth is that glycogen is not completely spent during normal exercise and gym sessions, thus the myth of a massive carb intake (usually of simple carbs) is more harmful than anything.
What Exactly Should I Be Eating?
Focus on the bigger picture. Make sure you are creating a healthy, balanced, and moderate meal plan throughout the day rather than focusing on meal timing for weight loss and muscle growth. Nutrient rich and unprocessed foods are the best way to do so. Ensure your insulin and glycogen levels remain steady both pre- and post-workout. This theory is supported by new studies showing that the “post-workout window” is in fact open for almost 24 hours—not 30 minutes.
Learn a fun way to workout and eat right with Krav Maga. We have a nutritionist on staff that can answer your food-related questions.