Nutrition is the key in terms of turning efforts into results for any workout. Post workout nutrition represents one of the most important meals of the day and Janis Isaman, expert nutritionist is here to guide us…
What’s the importance of the proper post workout meal after a high intensity workout?
Eating post workout is important! We know definitively that you need to eat at some point after working out, and we know definitively that you need to ingest quality nutrients (on both the micro and macro level) to support the intensity of sustained quality workout efforts. So the broadest and yet most specific advice I can offer is: you need to eat the most nutrient dense food possible.
Nutrition is an odd “science” insofar as we can prove and equally disprove anything and everything at the same time. We factually know that different people are going to have different nutrition needs post workout based on multitudes of factors, which include (but are definitely not limited to): age, gender, body composition, overall stress loads, medications, mood, digestion and the micro biome, sleep quality, illness, additional nutritional intake for the 24-48 hour window prior to the workout, other physical exertion in the 24-48 hour window prior to theworkout……etc….etc….etc….
The importance of what you are eating, when you are eating, how much you are eating, how you are eating, where you are eating and why you are eating are up for discovery. You might be looking for THE answer but, truthfully, the answer is going to be determined by conducting your own science experiment. The teeming host of factors involved will create a result that is functionally unique to your body and situation. And this is what makes it seem infinitely complex.
So for now, keep post workout nutrition crazy simple: Eat post workout. Look for quality nutrients. Think in an interval of approximately 1-2 hours post workout.
What should the macronutrient breakdown for our post workout meal look like after a high intensity workout?
Keep it simple! We basically want to be sure that we are consuming some carbohydrates and some protein. (tip: vegetables are also carbohydrates, and I’m going to suggest that you hear your mother in the background shouting “eat your vegetables!” for best results).
For optimal health and performance, you want to expand beyond your basic macros and look for some phytonutrients and micronutrients. Translated into English? It’s more important to eat a real meal containing real food than it is to slam down a protein shake with scientifically optimized nutrient ratios (55% carbs, 20% fat, 25% protein, if you must).
(And now…let’s also take a moment to reiterate the point about vegetables).
What foods do the ideal post workout meal consistent of?
Personal food preferences and your preferred dietary protocol (eg: vegan or Paleo) will invariably impact this answer, but what I will say is that the only food all food science researchers can universally agree upon is (drumroll please)…beans.
Depending on the varietal, beans fit basically perfectly into the optimized sports nutrient macro ratio and you would be pressed to locate a nutrition professional who has a negative thing to say about a bean.
Expanding beyond the bean, this is your “science experiment” portion! It’s going to look a bit different for everyone, and I encourage you to find a sweet spot of foods you enjoy with realistic timing with a focus on real food. Some questions to ask yourself when planning this meal include:
- What do you enjoy eating after working out?
- When can you realistically sit down to eat a meal?
- Are you properly chewing (boring and slightly gross, but important)?
- What is an optimal portion size based on your goals and other nutrient intake/planned nutrient intake for the day?
- Is there real food on your plate? I hope your meal involves a plate?!?
- When do you typically get hungry after working out?
Is there any truth to the 30 minute golden window in terms of consuming this meal? Is it safe to say the sooner we consume this meal post workout the better?
The 30 minute golden window theory was based on science from the early 2000s.
This notion is so outdated that I actually had to do some research to answer this question! And basically, the studies that led to this concept were short term (a few workouts to a few months) and focused on data points rather than results. So while blood chemistry changed when consuming food in this “golden window”, nobody studied the overall impact of fat loss or mass gain.
So basically this one is as useful as the shirt you got in college in 1994. Donate it to Housing Works.
A lot of us are busy New Yorkers and are on the run after class. Are there any key things to keep in mind if we are having a supplement instead of real food?
If you can’t have a real meal, smoothies are the next best option. The general smoothie formula: choose a liquid, choose a protein, choose a vegetable, and choose a fat. Yes, that pesky vegetable again.
So if you are going to a smoothie bar, get a shot of wheatgrass. If you are coming from home with your shaker cup, add some moringa.
Some people in class fear carbs. How important are they post workout after a high endurance workouts?
Carbs = money.
You don’t want money from bad sources. The drug trade, prostitution, illegal gambling.
You do want money from good sources. Jobs, inheritances, scholarships, or the Powerball. You need money to pay for adult things and do fun stuff.
You don’t want carbs from bad sources. Cookies, candies, cakes.
You do want carbs from good sources. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa. You need carbs to operate your brain for adult things and operate your body for fun stuff. =
Do not fear either money or carbs. Consider the source and behave appropriately.
What does your post workout meal look like after a high intensity workout?
I have two zones after a high intensity workout: “I’m not hungry and I would throw up if I consumed food right now”, and “I’m so hungry, my arm has protein and carbs, doesn’t it?!?”.
I therefore definitely need to plan my meals appropriately to avoid throwing up or losing body parts. I tuck a 2 cup Pyrex with a pre-prepped meal and a spoon to avoid embarassement.
Today? Vegan quinoa, mushroom risotto with cashew cream and blackened kale. That’s protein, carbs, healthy fats and a some bad ass veggies.
In one sentence, what do you want athletes to take away from this piece about post workout nutrition?
Eat post workout and focus on quality nutrients.
-Janis, Meal Ninja blackbelt certified nutritionist and Head Coach
Learn more about Janis on our Meet The Head Coach page