Just based on the number of questions we get on this topic we know athletes understand that post workout nutrition is a crucial for reaping the most out of their training, but they aren’t sure exactly what the benefits to it are or how to do it properly. So we are bringing in our Registered Dietitian, Lacey Rivette, to break it down for you. Let’s jump in!
What is the goal of the post workout meal?
My favorite way to explain the importance of post ride nutrition is with the 3 R’s:
- Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates within the muscles.
- Glycogen is utilized during training of all intensities, but is most important for short, intense efforts (i.e. weight lifting, a sprint or intervals). When glycogen stores are not replenished, performance in subsequent workouts will suffer.
- Muscles are most sensitive to carbs immediately after training and thus, including carbs in your post workout meal/snack will help to optimize glycogen repletion.
- The amount needed will depend on the intensity/duration, as well as how well an athlete fueled before and during their training. Typically though, 40-80g of carbs within the first hour after training is adequate.
- For longer and more intense workouts (i.e. a race or 3+ hour ride) a post workout snack with 40-80g of carbs within 1 hour of finishing, as well as a full meal within 2-4 hours is ideal.
- Consuming protein is necessary for promoting muscle repair and build new muscle
- Athletes should aim for 15-25g of high quality protein within 1-2 hours after training.
- Protein needs can be met through a normal diet. Protein powders are not necessary, but can be used if time is limited to prepare a meal.
Rehydrate: Fluids & Electrolytes
- Fluid & electrolyte losses are common, but varies from one athlete to another.
- Athletes can estimate how much fluid they need to replace losses by weighing themselves before and after training. For every 1 lb (or 0.5 kg) that is lost, 16-24 ounces of water should be consumed.
- Electrolyte replacement drinks/mixes are not typically necessary. Most athletes can replace losses by not restricting salt intake (salt is made of sodium & chloride, which are the primary electrolytes lost in sweat).
- Athletes who train for prolonged periods of time in environmental extremes (high heat, humidity or at altitude), an electrolyte replacement (like Gu Hydration tablets) may be necessary.
What should the post workout meal look like in terms of macros?
Immediately after training the focus should be on consuming carbs and protein, but the proportion between these will vary based on intensity, duration and the type of training an athlete is doing. For most athletes, it typically ranges between a 2:1 to a 5:1 ratio. For example an athlete doing 3 hours of sweet spot would need around a 4:1 ratio, or roughly 4 grams of carbs for every 1 gram of protein. This can seem confusing, so below is a chart that simplifies this concept and gives you some examples.
What about fat, should that be included in the post-ride meal?
Fat, especially healthy fats like nut butters, avocados and olive oil can certainly be included in a post workout snack as they contain essential nutrients and help with satiety. But if an athletes goal is to lose weight, then added calories from fat should be minimized in the post workout meal to avoid over consuming calories (fats contain 9 calories per gram where as carbs and protein contain only 4). Putting this into practice could be as simple as using 1 tbsp of nut butter instead of 2 in your post ride banana wrap (pictured below).
Is something better than nothing?
Some of you may be surprised to hear this, but often times… yes. Supplying your body with some form of sustenance after a hard workout is better than eating nothing, however for a quick recovery ride or a short gym session you are better off waiting until you can eat a nutrient dense meal or snack. If you know you will be short on time or that you will not be home within a few hours after training, I encourage you to think ahead and pack some portable snacks like a PB &J, trail mix, banana or a packet of oatmeal to take with you to help you avoid reaching for a bag of chips or grabbing some fast food.
So there you have it! You are fully equipped with all the information you need to start nailing your post workout nutrition. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop them below or post them in the athlete forum.
Cheers to eating well and riding fast!
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Lacey provides education and guidance to athletes about how to make healthy food choices that supports their performance goals, aids in sustainable weight loss, and improves their recovery. We are currently in the process of developing custom nutrition plans and one-on-one counseling with her, so keep your eyes out for those to be released in the near future!