This week on Barbell Shrugged we talk about post-workout nutrition, including the exact foods and supplements you should be consuming after training to get the best possible results. Also, we talk about some of the most common, easily avoided mistakes. This will save you from wasting immense time and effort in the gym.
Listen, you can train as hard and fast as you want for years and years. But if you don’t eat enough of the right foods, at the right time, then you’ll never reach your potential. It’s that simple.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.
First thing’s first, you’re probably under-eating.
Just look around at your Instagram feed. Most of the time, whenever someone posts an “Epic training meal! #GAINZ,” the amount of food on the plate is actually very small.
Most athletes appear to have the appetite and eating habits of a fussy toddler. That’s just not good enough when high performance is the expectation.
Listen, you have full permission in the post-training “Window of Gainz” to eat a giant carbohydrate rich meal. Whatever you want, minus the fat at this particular meal. People pass up on this opportunity all the time, which is incredibly silly. Especially if you’re looking to gain strength and size.
What your plate look like after training.
The answer is, mostly carbs and protein. Remember, this is an opportunity, not a meal to make you fat, even with the carbs. Rice, oats, potatoes, this sort of thing is perfectly fine. It’s pretty important. Load-up half of your dinner plate with those carbs. The other half should be piled high with a great animal protein source. All that fuel will go right into the muscles, not to body fat stores. This is what will build muscle during periods of growth, and it’s also what will preserve your muscle mass and strength during a period of hard conditioning and dieting down. Regardless of your training goals, this window is super critical. Sure, it’s possible to train and cut carbs. You might feel fine for a while, but this is largely a delusion. Just like with sleep, it’s hard to know what you’re missing until you start eating more. You will immediately feel stronger, and you’ll never go back to those under-rating ways.
Keep this meal in context.
Remember, this post-workout window only represents one meal per day. While an excessive amount of starchy carbohydrates certainly can be bad, you should still be consuming numerous paleo-ish meals throughout the day with tons of veggies, healthy fats, minerals and micronutrients, all that. That’s our assumption with this show, actually. Before you worry with this post-workout business, make sure you’re eating a balanced diet first. For many new athletes, this and sleep are the larger, more urgent missing pieces.
How much time do I have before the window closes?
There’s no hard and clear threshold for when the opportunity to re-feed passes, but typically, you should have a carbohydrate and protein rich meal down within 30-60 minutes of your final repetition of the day. Eating that meal right away maximizes the amount of carbohydrates stored in the muscles as glycogen, instead of fat. This is when your insulin sensitivity and capacity for proper carb utilization and storage are at their highest. Just remember, sooner is better. For that reason, you might choose to sip on a shake during your workout. This accounts for digestion time, so those nutrients hit your muscles right when the Window of Gainz is opening. That’s ideal. Click for your free eBook. It’s 100% free and awesome.
So what should go into a great workout shake?
We mentioned high-quality carbohydrates. Ideally, you should utilize something like Dextrose powder in your shakes. It’s easy to measure out, incredibly cheap, rapidly absorbed post-WOD, and metabolically speaking, far more favorable than fructose and other sugars. It’s actually most like glucose, which is the sugar that’s already flowing around in your blood stream. In terms of the amount of carbs, that all depends on your training. For strength work, a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 carbs to protein is ideal (about 40/80 grams of carb with 40 grams of protein). For longer conditioning sessions and hero WODs, you should probably consider a 3:1 ratio. Those are great starting points. Add to that if you feel like it helps you to perform and feel better. Also, don’t worry at all about being exact, just make your best guess. That’s enough. As we often say on the show, supplements are always supplemental. But that said, tossing some creatine and beta-alanine into the shake as well is a very good idea.
So, what exactly does the protein do?
We want to increase our uptake and utilization of carbohydrates during this post-workout window. Likewise, we also want to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can do to limit muscle tissue breakdown and soreness while supporting protein synthesis. That’s exactly why mixing and consuming carbohydrates and protein in these ratios after training is such a great idea. Essentially, you’re cutting your recovery time drastically by limiting the size of the hole you dig yourself during each punishing workout. It’s hard to overstate the cumulative power of this basic re-feeding strategy. Over the course of a year, you’ll be able to accumulate more high-quality work, which is exactly the difference between finishing at the bottom or top of the whiteboard.
@mike_bledsoe I see your bitch ass spread and raise you real Gainz #windowofgainz #canttellifgainzordiabetes A photo posted by CTP (@ctpcam) on
How do I know if I’m doing it right?
Well, of course, there’s the dancing. But a great sign that you’re eating enough food, post-workout or otherwise, is that you’re uncomfortable.
If you’ve always struggled to gain size and strength, then it’s incredible likely (almost certain) that you’re underrating. That uncomfortable feeling of being stuffed, or having to fight down a shake, that’s temporary. With time, it gets easier as the habits set in. But that said, the discomfort alone isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great sign!
You have struggled to get results in the past precisely because you didn’t go far enough with your training, diet, and recovery. However, by setting clear calorie targets, eating great foods, timing carb intake, etc., you should feel reassured.
The discomfort you might feel early on during post-workout re-feeds and carb-rich meals should really be considered a sign that you’re actually getting enough fuel for once.
Again, it’s hard to explain just how important this is. Food is gas in your tank. You won’t set speed records without it.
Get your timing down!
Go to the gym prepared. Have a shake on hand and your next meal fully planned. With that single habit you’re sure to set some new records, but you’ll also feel much stronger pretty much right from the start.
Don’t let that window close on you, baby. It makes all the difference.