Many of us know how important the relationship between nutrition and sporting performance is. Usually the main goals of the post workout nutrition are to recover the body from the physiological stress that it went through and prepare it for upcoming activities. Post workout nutrition aims to replenish glycogen that was used during the workout, to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, reduce catabolic processes within the body, and reduce muscle fatigue and soreness.
Of course, the post workout nutrition consists mainly of protein, carbohydrates, and fats but also water, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and all these nutrients can be consumed in the form of whole foods or supplements. However, the post workout nutrition depends on the goals of an individual. Keep in mind that post workout nutrition of a person who wants to lose fat is significantly different than the person who wants to pack on muscle mass, also their training programs will be individual too.
The post workout meal is all about replenishing what was lost during workout in order to optimize recovery process. Providing the body with the right combination of nutrients is essential for maximizing recovery. Some people prefer to take nutritional supplements to optimize recovery. However, according to a study on using carbohydrate & fat for training and recovery the only people who need to really concern themselves with immediately re-fueling, replenishing glycogen, post workout are those who may have another hard training session within an 8-hour window.
As we know intense workouts can cause break down of muscle protein, and studies have shown that consuming a protein and carbohydrate combination right after an intensive workout, can raise the insulin levels and blunt the effects of muscle protein breakdown. Also it is mentioned that this effect can be achieved by consuming well balanced meal 60+ minutes post workout. On the other hand, muscle protein synthesis is highly desired by many sporting individuals.
Studies suggest that an increase in essential amino acids in the bloodstream has great results on improving the rate of muscle protein synthesis, but other studies have found no significant change. However, another study points to a greater response when protein/carbohydrate is consumed up to 1 hour before workout, which makes sense as we consider the digestion time and the float of amino acid in the blood stream.
Also, another factor is the muscle hypertrophy which is an enlargement of the muscle tissue. Researchers suggest that hypertrophy can be greatly stimulated by consuming pre and post workout supplements. So a question might arise, “Do you need supplements immediately after workout?, according to studies is NO, unless your goal is to “bulk up” or you have multiple workouts in less than 8 hours frame during the day in order to optimize recovery.
Researches seems to support that you would be better off eating a protein / carbohydrate-based meal PRE- workout in order to blunt the effects of muscle breakdown, and promote glycogen replenishment, protein synthesis, and probably hypertrophy. But hey, it really comes down to your individual goals and training, be creative and find what works best for your body and goals. If you see your desired results, keep going with what you are doing, if not make some another changes and find your balance.
Burke, L., Kiens, B., & Ivy, J. (2004). Carbohydrates and fat for training recovery. Journal of Sport Sciences, 22, 15-30
Cribb, P., & Hayes, A. (2006). Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 06, 1918-1925.
Newton, P. J. Post Workout Nutrition.
Stark, M., Lukaszuk, J., Prawitz, A., & Salacinski, A. (2012). Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(54), 1-8.