Nutrition and exercise go hand by hand. If you want to optimize your performance and muscle gains, you should pay more attention to what to eat. In this post, we'll tell you what to eat to build muscle after workout.
If there's a moment your body is susceptible to changes, that's after workout.
Intense exercise compromises your muscles, and sets your body into "survival mode". And that's when nutrition comes into play.
Nutrition and training go hand by hand. When it comes to building muscle, a correct nutrition will provide all necessary nutrients to repair, maintain, and create muscle mass (1).
Although diet should be looked as “all day” thing, nutrition around the workout gains more importance. Pre-, intra-, and post-workout nutrition is a key factor of sports performance, muscle recovery, or muscle anabolism (2)
Post-Workout Nutrition Helps you Recover from the Workout
During and after intense exercise, your body enters in a catabolic state. You expose your body to unusual efforts. Muscle fatigue is built up, and energy levels keep going down.
This leads to elevated cortisol, less oxygen available, low insulin, and higher rates of muscle protein breakdown (3). However, nutrition can help you minimize all these unwanted effects.
Based on what you eat after workout, you can optimize muscle recovery and ressemble to the green line of the graph.
Carbohydrates and protein post workout show to increase substrate availability, blood glucose levels, and decrease cortisol. In other words, it shiftes your body from a catabolic to an anabolic state (4)
Post-Workout Nutrition Optimizes Muscle Anabolism
During intense exercise (e.g: weightlifting), muscle protein breaks down and muscle glycogen is used up. This catabolic state will be the signal for telling our body that we need to create more muscle mass in order to survive and evolve
To build muscle, you need to get out of that catabolic state. And the best way to do it is through nutrition. Post-workout nutrition helps you restore glycogen stores, repair the damaged protein, and hopefully create a bit of new muscle mass.
What to Eat to Build Muscle After Workout
Depending on what you eat after workout, the anabolic response will be greater (or not). Playing with the three macronutrients of your diet, we can design the perfect post-workout meal.
Now, let's look at the impact of each of the macronutrients after workout!
Protein after workout increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (9). In this study, they investigated different doses and sources of protein and their effect on the MPS (10). Here, we can conclude the following:
- The optimum protein dose after workout is 20-40g
- The anabolic response of whey protein is greater than that of plant protein. That problem can be overcome by increasing the amount of plant protein used.
- Protein intereacts with other nutrients, and taking a mixed meal rich in micronutrients can prolong the effect of protein after workout
High-intensity exercise requires of a lot of energy. Weightlifting, powerlifting, resistance training,... are all dependent on the glycogen stores in our body.
As we exercise, glycogen stores are emptied out (11). When glycogen is used up, performance starts to decrease, as we don't have more substrate to create energy.
Once you are done with your workout, your body sits in a low-energy status, which is not good for muscle growth. To overcome this problem, professionals recommend carbohydrates (CHO) intakes of 1-1.5g/kg/h during the first 2h after the workout (12)(13)
Carbohydrates post workout can provide nutrients to restore glycogen stores, stimulate insulin, and increase the anabolic response (14)
Fat intake after workout is not the most interesting thing to do. It doesn't seem to influence the anabolic response nor muscle recovery, but it doesn't make any harm either.
A lot of people think fats after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. It may slow down the digestion, but that doesn't mean the nutrients are not absorbed. In fact, whole milk after workout is more effective than skimmed milk (15), and the same happens with whole eggs (16)
Post-Workout Meal Ideas
Now you now what to eat after workout. High-protein, high-carbs and rich in micronutrients meal. Doing that, you'll be optimizing the anabolic response, and muscle recovery.
These are some ideas you can take as your post-workout meal!
High-Protein Oats Porridge
- 100g oats
- 30g whey protein
- 1 banana
- 50g blueberries
- Make oats porridge as told in the package
- Let it cool, mix it with whey protein
- Add the toppings as you like, and enjoy!
569 kcal // 35g P / 81g C / 9g F
Tuna with Rice and Green Beans
- 100g white rice
- 2 tuna cans (in water)
- 150g green beans
- Boil rice as told in the package
- Stir-fry the green beans, and then add the tuna cans and mix
- Add the rice, pour a splash of soya sauce, and enjoy!
554 kcal // 43g P / 86g C / 1g F
- 150g sliced chicken
- 150g white bread
- 1 egg
- Sliced tomato
- Green sprouts
- French's mustard
- Cook the chicken and slice it
- Slice the bread and put it in the toaster
- Take a hard-boiled egg, tomato, and slice them
- Build the sandwich: bread, mustard, tomato, chicken, egg, green sprouts, and top with the other side of the bread!
686 kcal // 53g P / 76g C / 17g F
- 4 brown toasts
- 3 eggs
- 100ml egg whites
- Siracha (or other hot sauce)
- Fresh cilantro
- Crack the eggs and pour them on a pan at low heat.
- Continusly stir until creamy consistency. Turn off the heat and let it cook for another 1-2'
- Toast the bread. Build the toasts... and enjoy!
659 kcal // 42g P / 70g C / 21g F
Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry with Spaghetti
- 125g spaghetti
- 150g chicken
- 100g red peppers + onion
- Soy sauce, garlic, chilli flakes
- 5g olive oil
- Put the spaghetti to boil in salted water. Follow the package instructions
- Chop the onion and peppers and put them on medium heat.
- As the veggies start to cook, cut the chicken in small pieces, marinate it with the spice mix, and pour it into the pan
- When cooked, lower the heat to low, and pour the spaghetti
- Add extra soy sauce and stir until reduced. Finish with a splash of oilive oil
690 kcal // 43g P / 102g C / 11g F
Protein Yogurt Parfait
- 250g skyr
- 1scoop whey protein
- 60g granola
- 100g berries
- Mix skyr with whey protein. If possible, leave it in the freezer for 20' for a ice cream-like texture
- Pour the granola and the berries on top
548 kcal // 53g P / 74g C / 3g F
Post-workout nutrition is important in order to optimize muscle recovery and build muscle more efficiently.
In this post we have seen what to eat to build muscle after workout. Focus on reaching the minimum dose of protein (20g) and easy to digest carbohydrates for a better muscle recovery!