What To Eat After A Workout:
After a workout, your body is like a sponge ready to absorb all the nutrients. An easy way to remember what to eat after a workout is using the 3 R’s of Recovery:
REFUEL – with carbohydrates. You need to replenish glycogen (aka stored carbs in the muscles) used up during the workout. This will help keep your energy steady and also prepare you for the next time you workout.
REPLENISH – rehydrate your body with water to avoid dehydration and cramping. If your workout was extra sweaty or longer than 60 minutes you likely need to replenish electrolytes (mainly sodium) as well. You can do this by consuming a sports drink or simply adding a pinch of salt to your water.
REBUILD – your muscles with protein. Aim for at least 15-25 grams within an hour after the workout. Protein helps with muscle protein synthesis and inhibits muscle breakdown.
Does Timing Matter? And How Much Protein Do I Need?
Yes, and no. It’s not true that you have to chug a post-workout shake the second you leave the gym. However, it is important to meet your protein needs throughout the day. For very active individuals, it is recommended to consume approximately 1.2-2.0 g/kg of protein weight per day. So, for a woman who weighs 120 lbs (~ 55 kg), the protein recommendation is about 65-110 g per day.
This might seem like a big range, but remember that your intake will vary from day to day and some days you’ll eat a bit less and others a bit more – so don’t overthink the numbers too much – if you are not skipping meals and are making them balanced, you are most likely meeting your needs. In fact, many Americans get too much protein rather than too little.
The best way to consume adequate protein is by spreading your protein intake out all day. Ideally you are consuming protein within 1-2 hours after your workout. If it’s not time for a meal, snacks are key in reaching this goal.