Published on October 16, 2011
The following post-workout nutrition lesson is just one of the 20 fueling myths that I dispel in my upcoming title from Endurance Planet entitled: “Endurance Planet’s Guide To Sports Nutrition with Ben Greenfield: “20 Fueling Myths Exposed”. Look for that book to be released in 3 weeks.
It’s likely that you’ve seen somewhere the legend of a mystical, magical fueling window. From exercise books, magazine articles and websites to nearly every resource that exists on sports nutrition, you’ll commonly read that “after you finish a workout, you have 20-60 minutes to replace precious energy by consuming a mix carbohydrates and proteins”.
Here’s what they don’t tell you:
In every study or experiment that has investigated the benefit of immediate post-workout nutrition replacement, subjects were fed after completing an exercise session that they had performed in a fasted or semi-starves state.
In other words, of course you’re going to benefit if you eat a meal after a workout in which you were completely depleted of energy! But how many of us actually roll out of bed in the morning, hop on a bicycle, and ride hard for 90 minutes to 2 hours with absolutely no fuel? In most cases, this would unpleasant, difficult and not a standard workout protocol.
So here’s the deal: if you’ve actually had a pre-workout meal, or any other recent meal, there’s no crucial, do-or-die need to eat after your workout – especially if you’re still “burping up” that bar you ate before your exercise session. This is especially true if you have no other workouts planned for the day, since your body is able to totally replenish energy levels within 8 hours of normal hunger-driven eating.
But it does make sense to fuel within that 20-60 minute window if you:
A) Haven’t had anything to eat before your workout and you’re in a totally energy depleted state (such as an early morning hard session before breakfast) and/or
B) You’re going to be working out again within the next 8 hours.
In such a case, grab a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, such as a banana smoothie with a handful of nuts and scoop of protein powder, and you’ll be set (and yes, that's another myth that adding a fat like nuts to your post-workout meal is going to slow down uptake of carbs or protein).
If you really want to geek out on the nitty-gritty, scientific details of this post-workout nutrition discussion, then you should check out the free Rock Star Triathlete Academy article “Putting the Pre & Post Workout Nutrition Debate Into The Grave” and also listen to in Podcast Episode #73 of David Warden’s Tri-Talk.
Questions or comments? Leave them below.