How Is Your Post Training Nutrition?
Whether it's resistance-training, endurance, or looking at any other type of athlete, nutrition can become more advanced the more skilled you become at your craft. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, nutrition can be seen as a pyramid of meeting our most basic needs first before advancing up the pyramid. Starting at the bottom of the nutrition pyramid is hitting basic caloric needs, then macronutrients, micronutrients, nutrient timing/frequency, and lastly, at the top is supplements. For this article, we are going to focus on nutrient timing, specifically, post-training nutrition. Post-training nutrition falls into the category of nutrient timing which is a higher up concept on the pyramid. However, just focusing on post-training rather than whole-day nutrient timing can be incorporated even if you are still at the most basic level of the pyramid; hitting basic caloric needs.
Why is Nutrient Timing Important?
After mastering the most basic skills in the pyramid, nutrient timing can be a great way to overcome plateaus and advance your nutrition to make the most of your training.
For post resistance-training, research shows protein has a significant impact on muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the process of amino acids forming proteins and repairing damage to the muscles caused by resistance-training. Protein turnover is another common term, meaning MPS is happening at the same time muscle protein breakdown is happening. The goal is for turnover to be more geared more towards MPS. By ingesting protein post workout, you can aid the body in this turnover. The “window” of time post training to take advantage of and get protein into the body lasts from about 1 to almost 2 hours immediately after the training session has ended. This “window” of opportunity should be taken advantage of due to the body being readily available to absorb nutrients.
What Kind of Protein Post-Resistance Training?
Having a variety of amino acids, meaning a protein source with a higher “quality,” is important to prioritize after resistance training. Animal proteins have the most amino acid variety, therefore, options like whey and micellular (dairy-based) proteins are some of the top options to ingest post-training (Nabuco et al., 2018). If following a vegan/vegetarian diet, adding in a BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids) supplement and/or a soy protein powder post workout to make sure you are getting a good variety of amino acids is a way to incorporate high quality proteins when choosing not to eat animal-based products. It is important to note that incorporating a protein source that includes leucine, an essential amino acid, is most effective in stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
The amount of protein post session can depend on the person. If you’re unaware of your caloric and protein needs, shooting for a minimum of 20 grams of protein post training session is a good starting point. Depending on your level of experience and goals within the gym, the protein needs may be more or less than 20 grams post session.
Proteins can act as catalysts, messengers, structural elements, buffers, fluid balancers, and so much more. Proteins play a massive role in our bodies. Therefore, making sure you are getting a good amount of both essential and non-essential proteins in a good amount is crucial to recovery and repair of not only the muscles but the body as a whole, post training sessions.
Other Macro and Micronutrients to Consider
Besides proteins, carbohydrates are just as important. Different types of exercise, such as long distance running, short distance running, resistance training, etc., yield different macro/micronutrient needs but for the sake of this article, we will stick to nutrition for post-resistance training lasting from approximately 1-2 hours.
Carbohydrates post-training can increase energy after a hard session by increasing glycogen stores. Sticking with a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grains, rice, beans, etc., is your best option rather than a highly processed carbohydrate that lacks vitamins and minerals. Portioning your carbohydrates is important as well. It is not necessary to go overboard with carbohydrates to increase glycogen stores as you might see a long distance runner doing post run.
When considering micronutrients post resistance-training, consuming antioxidant rich foods is helpful as well. Antioxidants not only quench free radicals in the body but play a big role in reducing inflammation. Inflammation post resistance-training is common and causes muscle soreness due to the stress from the training session on the body (Arulselvan et al., 2016). Some foods high in antioxidants include dark chocolate, kale, most nuts, blueberries, and goji berries.
Combining all the Elements
Focusing on incorporating a high quality protein source in the amount of at least 20 grams following a training session accompanied by a complex carbohydrate and some antioxidants could make your training sessions even more efficient and effective. Making sure to get in a good meal hitting all these elements can boost your body’s recovery and repair. Next time you find yourself programming your next workouts, make sure to program a great meal to follow up with afterward!
Arulselvan, P., Fard, M. T., Tan, W. S., Gothai, S., Fakurazi, S., Norhaizan, M. E., & Kumar, S. S. (2016). Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016, 1-15. doi:10.1155/2016/5276130
Nabuco, H., Tomeleri, C., Junior, P. S., Fernandes, R., Cavalcante, E., Antunes, M., . . . Cyrino, E. (2018). Effects of Whey Protein Supplementation Pre- or Post-Resistance Training on Muscle Mass, Muscular Strength, and Functional Capacity in Pre-Conditioned Older Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients, 10(5), 563. doi:10.3390/nu10050563