Your Workout isn’t Over Until You Refuel

I once saw a bodybuilder at the gym downing handfuls of raw oats in between gulps of a protein shake. Granted, he is a bodybuilder and needs mega recovery compared to me, but I was still startled at the sight.

“Getting your carbs?” I asked. “You don’t mix it with water? Just oats?”

“That and protein,” he confirmed.

It looked pretty dry and chokey, but this guy knew how to get his body some quick carbs and protein after lifting heavy! About six months ago he’d given me some tips on how to recover after a workout, and thankfully it didn’t include dry oats.

His tips made me realize that while I did get protein right away (a whey protein shake), the carbohydrate part of the equation was missing. I was also waiting too long for a larger influx of calories later (that is, a meal). I wanted to build muscle, but I wasn’t helping my muscles recover and grow. According to Fitblogger.com:

You have two fueling windows after a workout. The first is for the 30 minutes immediately after your workout. The second is about an hour after the first, or 1.5 hours after your workout. This takes planning if you’re working out away from home and have to commute home. You really need to take advantage of that 30 minute window.

What should you eat? You need a ratio of 2-4 grams carbs to every1 gram of protein. For example, you would ideally consume 40 grams of carbs with 10 grams of protein. The best article I’ve seen on pre- and post-workout refueling is Running Fuel for Beginners over at Fitblogger.com. This article also explains exactly why you need to refuel. You can push your body harder if it has recovered sufficiently from the last workout, among other reasons.

All this has me thinking about the delicate balance we have to strike in order to optimize our workouts: not consuming too many calories while getting enough to fuel our muscle growth and energy. You can read a great post on this subject over at JCDFitness.com (Can You Eat Too Much Post-Workout?).

Think about refueling as the last leg of your workout. It takes a little thought and planning, but filling those energy reserves so that your next workout is productive makes it worth it.

For tips on pre-workout fueling, check out How to Fuel your Workout at ShareitFitness.com.

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Comments

  1. The refuel is so essential! Nice work girl!

    And this totally reminds me of those EAS commercials when the athletes chug their protein shakes and then crush the package and say… “NOW I’M DONE!” 🙂

  2. NUTS! I just wrote a post about this dilemma this morning! I wait too long to eat a meal after I work out too. I have a chocolate milk recovery drink but I crash so hard. I’m in search of a good snack post-workout before I get home–before I crash!

  3. What a great post! I think sometimes women are afraid to refuel afterward because they’re concerned about calories. Glad you stressed how important it is!

    I keep food in the car so I can tank up immediately afterward . . .

    Mary
    Mary Weaver recently posted..Exercise to beat depressionMy Profile

    • Ryan thank you! It totally rocks that you stopped by. Now I must see the commercial… I love EAS shakes!
      Lisa, I think this is your lucky day, then, yes? 😉 I used to crash about halfway through my workout. As far as a good post-workout snack, how about a shake and fruit? I usually do a banana, though I am thinking this is still not enough carbs.
      Thanks for stopping by Mary! I get that impression too about the calories…. the post I link to explains that quite well. I keep my stuff in the car too!

  4. You eluded to the “planning” part of the equation, which is the most important part. In my experience that is where most people break down and fail — in the planning and preparation for the refueling.

    I have had a love/hate relationship with the concept of bodybuilding for years, but one thing bodybuilders always get right is nutrition and the planning required. A good lead to follow….
    Emergefit recently posted..A New Frotnier…My Profile

    • True. I put protein powder in my water bottle and add water to it at the gym. I put a banana in my car. It is a matter of thinking ahead and habit. I hate it when I forget that little banana! Then I consume my little PWO treats on the way home (although driving while eating a banana is not recommended! ;)).

      Your next post looks very intriguing by the way, looking forward to it.

  5. Suzanne, I’m still trying to find the right balance with this issue. Typically I can’t eat until at least 1.5 hours after my workout, and hope I’m getting enough protein from the walnuts in my oatmeal. Appreciate the great tips!

    • Can you bring something? I put protein powder in my bottle and add water at the gym. And bring a banana. Nice to add walnuts to oatmeal but that’s a big long to wait… <33

  6. Oh dear. I have so much to learn! I’m not sure how much this applies to me because I probably don’t workout to the intensity of others – the extent of my planning involves having my shoes, HR monitor & water bottle. If I have those, I consider it a success! Thanks for sharing Suzanne – I’m gonna check out your linkies too!
    Kris @Krazy_Kris recently posted..Adjusting to My New Empty NestMy Profile

    • Kris – I don’t think it matters how hard you work out love. You need to replenish your body’s reserves! Maybe you don’t need a protein shake if you’re not lifting much but definitely some carbs. It’ll help prevent crashing and overeating later, which I don’t think you have a problem with but thought I’d mention :).
      Kohy – Seriously? I can imagine this actually. I’m impressed!! You’re an animal. And what you say is so true.

  7. Thought I was the only one to choke raw oats. Take advantage of post workout carb window. Its the one time you can spike your insulin levels with naughty carbs like sugars w/o worrying about storing it as fat.

  8. Now if only I actually worked out…

Mentioned Elsewhere:

  1. […] If you CAN eat a meal within 30-45 minutes of your activity, do so. Often times that’s not feasible so try to have a snack, some protein and carbs are good. Restoring glucose in your body is what helps prevent sore muscles and speeds recovery. “Your post-workout meal should be reflective of the intensity and duration of your workout. Healthy post-workout snacks within 30 minutes of training are most important after longer, moderate-to-high intensity workouts. This helps replace glycogen stores, repair muscle tissue, and prepare you for the next training session. Long- or short-duration exercise that is low in intensity doesn’t necessitate a recovery snack/meal. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a carb intake of 0.7g/lb of body weight and 10-20 grams of lean protein post-workout. (from Workout Nirvana)“ […]

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