Do this one thing and lock in the hard-earned benefits of every single workout.
Last rep … and you’ve left it all on the table. Your energy is spent, your muscles are fatigued after being pushed to their limits. You’d pat yourself on the back for a job well done, if only you could lift your aching arms.
Unfortunately, it’s at this point, just when you think you’ve crossed the finish line on another productive weight-training workout, that many people make a monumental mistake. We’re talking one that could essentially wipe away every benefit of that difficult regimen — meaning you did all of it for nothing.
Skipping (or skimping on) your post-workout meal
That error? Skipping (or skimping on) your post-workout meal.
What you eat after you train could be considered the single most important step, the one that makes all the difference between attaining your physique and performance goals or falling short.
Just as there is a rhyme and reason to how you approach your exercises, sets and reps, there is a proven recipe for nutrition to repair and rebuild your body.
Within the 60-minute window after your training ends, your muscles are primed to replenish carbohydrates — in the form of glycogen, your energy stores — and protein, the building blocks of muscle tissue. Granted, these nutrients are critical at all points for those who regularly work out, but the hour after a session is the sweet spot timing-wise.
For one, you need protein, which stimulates protein synthesis that builds and repairs muscle tissue. How much protein? There’s no one-size-fits-all definitive answer, although some research studies suggest that 20 grams is the optimal amount one should consume après training. Any more and there doesn’t seem to be much benefit, according to the scientific literature, although up to 40 grams may be okay. (There is some proof that excess protein may be stored as fat, so don’t merely assume more is better.)
Make sure to pair it with some fast-absorbing carbs — up to 60 grams — to prompt your body’s insulin response, which prepares your muscles to receive the protein you’re ingesting. This is when simple-sugar carbs are best: it’s a great time to quench sweet cravings, in fact, with such foods as gummy bears, jelly beans, or angel food cake. (The idea here is fast-acting sugar, not complicated high-calorie sweets — in other words, polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is not the right approach.)
As for that protein, you could technically use a whole food, like eggs, turkey or chicken breast. But there’s a much easier approach: a protein shake stashed in your gym bag. You can either put scoops of powder in a shaker that you then add water to when ready, or pick a ready-to-drink option.
If you add this one “can’t miss” step to your every single workout, you’ll be giving your body the nutrients it needs to turn your hard work in the gym into real results.
By Michael Berg, NSCA-CPT