Anyone serious about nutrition and fitness should understand the importance of a proper post-workout meal. Unfortunately, nutrition is the most neglected part of most fitness programs and yet it can make the most dramatic impact on obtaining your fitness goals. The post-workout meal is probably the most important meal of the day.

So what is the post-workout meal and how soon after your workout should you have it? This meal should contain two things – protein and carbs – and shouldn’t contain any fats. Fats slow down digestion and this, as you will see, is the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Your post-workout meal should be consumed ideally within 30 minutes of completion of your workout and no later than an hour. Getting this meal in your body quickly is key, as this is when the muscles are broken down and starved for protein. However, getting this meal into your body quickly doesn’t necessarily mean it will be digested and utilized quickly.

The protein from whole foods like egg whites, chicken and fish digests pretty slowly and by the time the protein is digested and ready to be used, too much time has passed; the idea is to get the protein to the muscles quickly. This is why the ideal source of protein for the post-workout meal is whey protein powder mixed with some type of liquid to create a protein shake. A whey protein shake will be digested a lot quicker than a whole food and will be able to be utilized by the muscles much quicker. Whey protein is the best option of the post-workout meal because whey is the fastest digesting protein available. The shake should contain anywhere from 20 to 50 grams of protein.

The other important component of the post-workout meal is carbohydrates. We have all heard carbs are bad; actually, for those of us interested in fitness, they are extremely important post-workout. At the time immediately following a good workout, carbs are used to restore muscle glycogen. If your post-workout meal doesn’t contain carbs in order to restore glycogen, your body might actually start to break down muscle tissue for this purpose. Carbs also create an insulin spike, aiding in getting nutrients into the muscle faster.

There are both simple carbs and complex carbs – complex carbs are whole grains and wheat bread, while simple carbs break down into sugar in the body. Normally you would want to stay away from simple carbs, however complex carbs contain fiber and fiber slows down their digestion. Remember, the post-workout meal is all about speed and getting nutrients to the muscles quickly. Simple carbs digest
very quickly.

A food such as a baked potato is a good simple carb but like protein, a whole food is probably not the best choice. A better choice would be something like dextrose.

Dextrose isn’t a supplement; it’s actually just a type of sugar. Normally consuming sugars isn’t desirable but for the purpose of the post-workout meal, it’s essential.

Adding about 50 to 60 grams of dextrose to a whey protein shake makes for an ideal post-workout meal.