A good workout needs to be followed by some good nutrition. If it isn’t muscle growth can be impaired so it’s important bodybuilders never neglect this important stage in their body’s development. The catabolic process set in motion by resistance training will have undoubtedly triggered the need for repair and growth, but if the necessary nutrients are not provided the anabolic process will suffer.
The Right Stuff
Fatty foods should be avoided directly after a workout because, apart from helping to pile on the pounds, they will also restrict protein and carbohydrate absorption. In the post-workout period the body needs a sufficient supply of both types of nutrient, but it certainly does not require any fat.
The relationship between protein and muscle growth makes it all too easy to focus overly hard on protein and neglect other nutrients. Studies indicate post-workout carbohydrate (of the right type) is every bit as important. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise published the results of one such study that showed eating a healthy combination of post-workout carbs and protein provides increased strength and improved muscle mass.
Unfortunately, not all carbs provide energy in the same way. Up until fairly recently carbs used to be split into two groups simple carbs (mostly sugars) and complex carbs (fruits starches etc.), but these days carbs are measured by their glycemic (GI) value. Low GI carbs release their energy slowly, which makes them a fantastic choice for pre-workout snacks and meals, but in the post-workout stage the body needs to top-up its glycogen stores more quickly so high GI carbs are required.
What to Eat
There are numerous options to choose from, but some examples of post-workout foods include:
- Milk Shake (Whey Powder): Milk and whey are a powerful muscle-building combination that will be quickly absorbed and get to work fast. Add a spoon of honey or a very ripe banana to provide some high GI carbs.
- Fruity Yoghurt: All yoghurts provide protein, but go for Greek yoghurt if you can; it contains twice as much protein as normal yogurt. Adding some small pieces of watermelon or some cocoa pops will add to its energy boosting abilities.
- Cheerios (With Sugar and Low-Fat Milk): Cheerios can deliver a much-needed post-workout energy buzz and the milk they are swimming in will provide the necessary protein. As a post-workout snack they are also quick and easy to prepare so there’s a lot to be said for bowl of Cheerios.
- Tuna Fish Baguette (White): Unlike its wholemeal relative, white bread is a high GI carb provider; so a white baguette is perfect for a post-exercise snack, and tuna fish is low in fat and high in protein, so it’s an effective muscle-building combination.
- Low Fat Milk & Cookies: A few cookies should cover the body’s energy needs and the milk will provide the body with protein so it’s a quick and easy option that can deliver the necessary nutrients.
- Baked Potato with Chicken and Sweetcorn: A winning combination that tired muscles will appreciate, but opt for a low fat mayo and “stingy” should be the operative word.
- Chicken Sandwich (White Bread): Chicken is low in fat and high in protein. White bread is a high GI carb-provider. Adding a little black pepper will add to the flavor and provide a fat burning component called piperine.
- Cottage Cheese on Rice Cakes: Easy to prepare and high in nutrition. Your muscles will thank you in the only way they know how.
- Cottage Cheese in a Bagel: Bagels are 10% protein and are a good GI carb provider. The cottage cheese provides a further source of protein and a few pieces of red pepper will assist with fat burning.
- Creatine: Used in conjunction with other foods, creatine can improve protein synthesis and turbocharge bodybuilding results.
The right foods eaten at the right time can ensure post-workout success, but the workout and what comes after it are only part of the story. Pre-workout nutrition is also important because it ensures the body has a sufficient supply of energy to train with the necessary intensity. So bodybuilding is a process in three parts—pre-exercise nutrition, exercise, and post-exercise nutrition.