Whether you are a professional athlete, a fitness nut, gym rat, or someone who simply wants to stay in shape, you are likely familiar with the importance of post-workout nutrition.
In recent years, research has shown that what you eat after your workout is just as important as what you eat before and during it.
The right post-workout meal can help you re-up energy, promote muscle growth and repair, and improve overall recovery.
But the question is, when should you eat it?
To get to the bottom of this, let’s explore the findings of a recent study by Georgia State University where they put this question to the test. And uncover what you can do for the BEST results.
What Science Says About The Post Workout Anabolic Window
In 2021, Georgia State University conducted a study that looked at the effects of post-workout meal timing on muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which is the process by which muscle fibers repair and grow after exercise.
The study included 21 young, healthy men who performed resistance exercises for the legs in a fasted state.
Participants were divided into three groups: a control group that did not consume any food, a group that consumed a protein-rich meal immediately after exercise, and a group that consumed the same meal three hours after exercise.
The meal consisted of 20 grams of whey protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fat.
The results of the study showed that the group that consumed the protein-rich meal immediately after exercise had the highest MPS response, while the group that consumed the meal three hours after exercise had a significantly lower MPS response.
Interestingly, the control group that did not consume any food after exercise also had a lower MPS response than the immediate post-exercise meal group.
Going Deeper: Implications for Post-Workout Meal Timing
The findings of the Georgia State University study have important implications for post-workout nutrition.
They suggest that consuming a protein-rich meal immediately after exercise is the most effective way to promote muscle growth and repair.
This is because exercise increases the body’s sensitivity to amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and consuming protein after exercise can provide the necessary nutrients for muscle repair and growth.
The study also suggests that waiting too long to eat after exercise can reduce the effectiveness of post-workout nutrition.
The three-hour delay in the delayed meal group led to a lower MPS response compared to the immediate post-exercise meal group.
This may be due to the fact that the body’s sensitivity to amino acids decreases over time, and waiting too long to eat after exercise can cause a missed opportunity for optimal recovery.
But Wait, There’s A Catch… What Eating BEFORE Training Does To Post-Workout Meal Timing
The widely accepted concept of an “anabolic window” for optimal muscle growth and recovery may not be as crucial as previously thought.
The 2021 Georgia State University study found that consuming a protein rich meal immediately after exercise is effective in promoting muscle protein synthesis.
However, the study suggests that protein intake throughout the day, rather than just during the post-workout period, can be equally effective.
While the study recommends consuming protein within 30-60 minutes after exercise, it also notes that the timing of protein consumption should not be a major concern for most people.
A 5-6 Hour Anabolic Window?
Consuming a pre-workout meal may also have an impact on the post-workout anabolic window. The timing and composition of the pre-workout meal can affect the availability of nutrients during and after exercise.
The research shows that the window may extend to the 5-6 hours surrounding training, with the timing of nutrient intake dependent on the state of the individual training.
Pre-workout protein can eliminate the need for immediate post workout protein consumption, making timing based on factors such as preference, tolerance, convenience, and availability.
They found that having some protein before training, combined with consistent strength training, was equally effective in muscle strength, growth, and recovery as post-exercise protein consumption.
How Much Protein Is Needed?
The recommended protein intake surrounding training is 0.4-0.5 g/kg of lean body mass, which can be met by consuming one serving of whey protein, four ounces of animal protein, or one cup of mixed plant proteins such as rice and beans.
The anabolic window is not as narrow as previously believed, with total daily protein and usual protein intake being more important to muscular health than nutrient timing.
Putting the Protocols into Action
So, what does this mean for your post-workout meal timing? Here are some actionable tips for putting the protocols into action:
Consume a protein-rich meal immediately after exercise
Based on the findings of the study, consuming a protein-rich meal immediately after exercise is the most effective way to promote muscle growth and repair.
Aim for a meal that contains at least 20 grams of protein, which can be found in foods such as chicken, fish, beef, tofu, eggs, or a protein shake.
Pair the protein with some carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and some healthy fats for overall health.
Don’t wait too long to eat
Waiting too long to eat after exercise can reduce the effectiveness of post-workout nutrition.
Try to consume your post-workout meal within 30-60 minutes after exercise to take advantage of the body’s heightened sensitivity to amino acids.
Consider eating BEFORE you workout
Pre-workout nutrition can also play a role in post-workout recovery.
Consuming a meal or snack that contains protein and carbohydrates before exercise can provide the necessary nutrients for muscle repair and growth.
Aim to consume your pre-workout meal at least 1-2 hours before your workout to allow for digestion.
Choose the right protein
Not all protein is created equal. Whey protein, which was used in the Georgia State University study, is a fast-digesting protein that can promote muscle protein synthesis.
However, other protein sources such as casein, egg, or plant-based proteins can also be effective.
Choose a protein source that works best for you and fits within your dietary preferences.
Hydration is essential for optimal recovery after exercise. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout to replace fluids lost through sweat.
Dehydration can lead to decreased performance and recovery, so aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
Wrapping This All Up – What’s Next For You…
In conclusion, the 2021 Georgia State University study provides valuable insights into post-workout meal timing and its effects on muscle growth and repair.
The study suggests that consuming a protein-rich meal immediately after exercise is the most effective way to promote muscle protein synthesis.
Waiting too long to eat after exercise can reduce the impact of post-workout nutrition, so aim to consume your post-workout meal within 30-60 minutes after exercise.
Pre-workout nutrition can also play a role in post-workout recovery, so consider consuming a meal or snack that contains protein and carbohydrates before exercise.
Choose the right protein source that works best for you and fits within your dietary preferences, and stay hydrated throughout the day.
By following these protocols, you can optimize your post-workout nutrition and achieve maximum results from your exercise routine.