Post Workout Meal: Recovering Faster with Nutrition

Next Level Podcast with Host Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LD

Tavis Piattoly- Podcast

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN
Host and Presenter
Sports Dietitian 
Co-founder of My Sports Dietitian

Window of Opportunity

You've just completed a very intense 90 minute strength and conditioning workout and your body is tired but also hungry and is primed for calories. Now that your muscles have been broken down and your gas tank is empty, the window of opportunity to refill is closing and depending on when you consume your post workout calories, could determine where your body will breakdown more muscle than it repairs. Listen to this podcast with sports dietitian, Tavis Piattoly to learn about the importance of nutrition for recovery and how to design an appropriate post-workout meal.

Podcast Notes

1)      What happens during an intense strength and conditioning workout
2)      Importance of Post Workout Nutrition
3)      The “Window of Opportunity” to maximize muscle recovery
4)      Ideal amount of carbohydrates and protein to maximize recovery?
5)      How much protein do I really need after a workout?
6)      Is food or fluid best to consume post workout?

Podcast Transcript

0:00  Welcome by Tavis Piattoly

  • What is post workout nutrition?  
  • What are the best foods to eat to refill the “gas tank” and repair tissue? 
  • Timing of post workout nutrition.

1:55  What is post workout nutrition?

  • The timing of nutrients immediately after working out or exercise.

2:50  What happens during an intense strength and conditioning workout?

  • During exercise, athletes break down a lot of muscle tissue.
  • In strength training, the process of lifting weights breaks down muscle tissue and fiber and is why we feel sore after the first few exercise sessions.  Lots of inflammation occurs that the body isn’t accustomed to, but can be repaired with nutrition.
  • Without post workout nutrients, we minimize our chances of recovery, at the rate we would like.

2:20  Importance of Post Workout Nutrition.

  • Research indicates that consuming nutrients after a workout improves performance, reduces inflammation and soreness, increases the ability to grow muscle tissue, improves immune system function and recovery process, body composition and bone mass.  We also feel better and have more energy overall.
  • There are three specific purposes or goals after a workout:
    • Rebuild the muscle tissue via protein synthesis.
  • Replenish glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrate.
  • Minimize protein breakdown.
  • By consuming nutrients after a workout, since we’re typically really hungry, we can control hunger and decrease the chance of overeating later.

5:35  Intro: The “Window of Opportunity” to maximize muscle recovery.

  • If an athlete doesn’t have any food to refuel after a workout within a certain window, I tell athletes to NOT workout because they are defeating the purpose.  
  • Workouts breakdown muscle tissue and fiber and therefore protein, while recovery is all about muscle protein synthesis.  What we consume afterwards, makes us stronger and also helps us recover faster.
  • After lifting weights we are in a negative net balance of protein.  We need to be in positive net protein balance to grow muscle tissue.  This is difficult to achieve if we’re not eating at the right time.

8:50  Ideal amount of carbohydrates and protein to maximize recovery?

  • It’s important to get the blood flow kicking to muscle tissue quickly.
  • Nutrients will be carried by the blood to specific areas of need.
  • Key components post workout are protein and carbohydrate. 
  • How much?  What is the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein?  Not necessary to figure out with every athlete every time. The main thing is getting calories.

10:30  The “Window of Opportunity” to maximize muscle recovery.

  • The window is about 2 hours, starting from the minute you stop exercising.  Your body is primed for nutrient intake.  You don’t want to wait to eat beyond that, the window of opportunity gets smaller.  Ideally, refuel in the first 30 minutes post workout.
  • Research shows that protein synthesis occurs from 36-48 hours post workout.  But if you allow too much time to pass prior to refueling, breakdown will eventually surpass protein synthesis, which means you will lose muscle.
  • If you don’t refuel post workout on a regular basis, your recovery is worse, energy levels go down, you won’t see improvement in body composition, strength decreases and you lose muscle.

11:45  Is food or fluid best to consume post workout?

  • Liquids are absorbed and digested faster than whole (solid) foods, so ideally, we want liquid.
  • Turkey sandwich, PBJ or a banana and milk will take a little longer to digest, but are great options to help your body recover, stabilize blood sugar and provide energy.
  • Chocolate milk is effective because it’s a high sugar carbohydrate.  It’s something that increases insulin level and blood sugar quickly, and is then delivered to the “gas tank” or muscles quickly.  Great for lean athletes.
  • When a high sugar carbohydrate is combined with a protein like fast acting whey protein, it increases our blood amino acids and is delivered to the muscles quickly, it increases insulin and stimulates insulin like growth factor, our body recovers faster and helps repair that damaged tissue. You’ll still have muscle damage.  You can’t completely eliminate that stuff.
  • I’m a big fan of whey protein because it’s absorbed quickly, it has a very high biological value and the research has been abundant on whey protein post workout as optimal. 
  • You see a better insulin response when protein is combined with carbohydrates.  It accelerates recovery because insulin helps our body deliver carbohydrates and amino acids to where they need to be pretty quickly. 
  • For athletes that are looking to lose fat, I don’t focus on the high insulin response.  When we have too much insulin circulating in the body, we don’t burn fat.  The focus is on slow acting carbohydrates in shakes, using ingredients such as oats, fresh fruit (berries) and sometimes grains like quinoa.  Or, we’ll take a ready to drink shake that is low carbohydrate and then combine it with a PBJ.  So we stabilize blood sugar in our higher body fat athletes.  These athletes will still burn fat and get the benefits of recovery.
  • Shamrock Farms Rockin Refuel has a nice ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
  • Save money by making your own shakes.

16:20  How much protein do I really need after a workout?

  • The research has shown that all you need is 20 grams of protein post workout.  Anything more than that is really not beneficial.  You won’t get bigger.  You are just wasting money.  
  • 20g has the right amino acid profile with the branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.  Leucine is really the key to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.

18:20  Be prepared! 

  • Have a plan, don’t skip, stop at the store - NO fast food!  Fast foods are high inflammatory type foods in the body. The worst thing you can do post workout is cause more inflammation.  It does not help the body recover, in fact, it causes more damage.
  • If you know you won’t have access to a refrigerator, bring protein powder and mix with water.
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