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Let me start by explaining a little about post workout nutrition. The post workout period is a crucial time for you to get the proper nutrients into your muscles. During a workout especially one that involves weight training, we are breaking down lots of muscle tissue. So your muscles need protein because as you know the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks for your muscles to repair themselves. However, your muscles aren’t the only thing taking a beating during your workout. Glycogen stores within the muscles and throughout the body are depleted during your workout as well. These glycogen stores need to be replenished to assist with recovery and prepare you for your next workout. If you’re looking to burn extra fat then you may want to wait a little while after your workout to consume carbs so your body can continue burning fat.
A big question that people have about post workout nutrition is how soon after your workout should you consume calories. And there are two answers that people go by today. The science answer and The Bro Science Answer. According to Bro Scientists there exists a thing called an anabolic window. This “Anabolic Window” lasts up to 30 minutes after your workout. And about 5 years ago when I was in college me being the bro scientists that I was, I believed in the Anabolic Window. I believed in it so intensely that during these times I would go to they gym still full from a huge meal, work out, then drink a protein shake, followed by a cell tech hardcore shake. A few times I even puked, so then I would drive home as quickly as I could, make a new shake, and drink it within that 30 minute window.
I have since learned that the real science does not really point to an anabolic window. It seems like all of its support comes from supplement scientists and the bro scientists that learn from them. I’m not saying that you can’t have supplements or stuff food down your throat directly after a workout, but what I’m saying is that you really don’t have to. As long as you end up getting the same amount of calories throughout the day, eating a meal an hour or hours after your workout will have the same effect. In fact your body is going to be in a muscle growth and repair cycle for 24-48 hours. Also if you’re trying to strictly burn fat, then not eating a meal for an hour or so after your workout will leave your body no choice but to use its own fat stores. With an elevated heart rate after exercise this could make a difference in regard to fat burning.
Okay now that the anabolic window is out the way, I want to provide a few post workout meal options. Nutritionists constantly agree that whole real food will always produce better results than supplements. So I’m going to give you an example of what your plate should look like if you’re trying to build muscle, and what your plate should look like if you’re trying to burn fat.
If you’re trying to build muscle your plate should include a starchy carb, 1-2 fists of green veggies, and a source of protein. If you eat meat then chicken breast or low fat fish is a good choice after a workout. If you don’t eat meat then you can mix in some beans, peas, hemp seeds, chia seeds, or flax seeds. As far as carbs are concerned I recommend you have starchy carbs over fruits because starchy carbohydrates are more likely to be stored in the muscles as glycogen Where as fruits are used for energy immediately. Examples of good starchy carbs include brown rice, quinoa which is great for vegetarians just make sure you rinse it before cooking, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, Oats things like that. And for green veggies I highly recommend broccoli because broccoli has something known as indole 3 carbinole in it also known as IC3. IC3 has been linked to temporarily lowering your estrogen which could help your gains post workout.
If you’re trying to lose weight or burn body fat and you want to eat a meal immediately after your then I would hold my carbs off until my next meal. This way you can consume those starchy carbs in your next meal and allow your body to continue burning body fat while recovering from your workout. So you’re post workout plate would still have the green veggies, the protein source, and instead of the carbs you can have some additional fat like coconut oil. Keep in mind if your trying to burn fat you don’t have to wait until the next meal to get carbs if your meal is an hour or so after your workout.
If you’re building muscle and need extra calories. Have a shake followed by a meal.