To get the maximum post workout effect, you should eat within 30 minutes to two hours after working out. During this window, your muscles are starving for nutrients and are the most receptive to accepting calories. But just what should eat, when should you eat it and how much?
While it can vary from person to person, generally you should strive to replace 50% of the calories you burned during your workout. These calories should breakdown into the three macronutrients as:
- 60% carbohydrates
- 25% protein
- 15% fat (or less)
This is one of the few times it is recommended that you should eat simple carbohydrates. Eating a banana or raisins or drinking orange juice immediately after exercising gets replacement glycogen and glucose to your muscles quickly. For a carbohydrate/protein combo effect, mix in some protein powder in your orange juice.
Then within one to two hours after working out, eat some complex carbohydrates; these calories will help repair the damage done to your muscles during your workout and help to build new muscle. A moderate intensity workout requires eating 30-40 grams of carbohydrates for each hour of exercise; for high intensity routines, you should eat 50-60 grams.
Some good after-workout complex carbohydrates include:
- brown rice
- whole grains
- all fruits and vegetables.
Eating protein after exercising stops your body from further breaking down muscle tissue that occurs during a workout. It also begins the process of rebuilding and repairing muscles so they are ready for your next workout. In general, consume about 10-15 grams of lean protein post-workout. Good sources include:
- whey or soy protein mix
Since eating fat post-workout really does not help you at all, the caution is to not eat too much of it; in excess, it can derail your weight or fitness goal. Most people only need 10 grams or less, so if you are eating good sources of protein and carbohydrates, your fat consumption should be naturally low and within range. If you do ingest some fat as part of your post-workout meal, make sure it is the unsaturated type and not saturated or trans.
Lastly, throughout the course of a workout, you are losing water through breathing and sweating. One of the first things you should do after a workout is rehydrating yourself. Drinking water not only helps rehydrate your body, but it also helps lubricate muscles, regulate body temperature and promote digestion of your after workout meal.
If you exercise at a moderate level, you can expect to lose about one quart of water per hour of exercise. If you sweat profusely or exercise outside in hot/humid weather, then increase your water consumption to one and a half quarts per hour of exercise. Another way to calculate your rehydration need is to weigh before and after a workout; you should drink 20 ounces of water for each pound of weight lost.
By knowing when and what to eat post-workout, you can get the most benefit from your exercise regimen.