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.