Some say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I follow an Intermittent Fasting (IF) lifestyle. So for me, the post-workout meal is the most important one.
It’s at this time when your muscles are craving nutrients. This is the best time to have a large meal. After a workout, your body is much more sensitive to insulin. This means that your body is able to better absorb all that food and use it for muscle growth and repair rather than storing it as fat.
Now if you’ve been surfing the internet or reading those bodybuilding magazines, you probably still believe that you should get some protein and carbs into your body as soon as you finish a workout. Drop those weights and drink that shake! Well, that’s not true.
While it is true that post-workout your body needs nutrients to repair itself and grow, this magical anabolic window doesn’t just disappear in a matter of minutes. The magazines will have you believe that within an hour, your body turns catabolic and starts burning all that hard earned muscle to repair itself. This just isn’t true. If it was, intermittent fasting wouldn’t be so popular.
The truth is that it takes a long time for your body to actually start burning muscle, the research varies but generally it is agreed that it takes around 24-48 hours of complete fasting for your body to really start burning muscle. The time varies between individuals, but you really don’t have anything to worry about. You won’t wither away on the way from the gym to your home. So relax and don’t pick up any take-out.
What should I have post-workout?
The most common thing to have after a workout is a protein shake. It’s easy to make, easy to drink and is digested by the body rather quickly. You really don’t NEED to have a shake but most people find that they just don’t have the energy to prepare and eat a solid meal right after their workout. A nice, cold protein shake is a perfectly acceptable alternative to solid foods at this time. It helps give your body quick energy and gives the muscle repairing process a quick boost. I like to add some fruits, such as bananas or berries, to my protein shake to add some sweetness, thickness and carbs. You can even add a healthy fat such as flax oil or flax/chia seeds.
A solid meal is always a good idea as it provides much more nutrients than a shake and is also much more filling. Just make sure that you get a healthy balance of protein, carbs and some fat. A good option would be chicken or fish with a side of jasmine rice and vegetables. I recommend jasmine rice because it is much easier to digest.
However, if you’re one of the few people who just don’t feel like eating after a workout, that’s alright too! You won’t shrivel up until your next meal. Just make sure to stay hydrated.