Ok, so you’ve just spent 45 minutes pounding it out in the gym tearing up your muscles, gulped down an extra frothy, fast-acting protein and carbohydrate drink and are on the road to muscle recovery. Considering it is only 4 pm, you have the rest of the evening ahead of you and you definitely can’t let yourself starve. You need to consume at least two more meals before your head hits the pillow and you are well aware that those two meals should not consist of fast-food and soft drinks. The recovery process does not end at the post-workout meal!
We have already established that the best time for an insulin spike is right after exercise, thus explaining why it is so important to consume high GI carbohydrates. And we also know that it is essential to get protein to the muscle immediately after workout thus explaining why “fast-acting” whey protein is the supplement of choice. But what the heck are you supposed to eat for the rest of the day? Considering a rise in insulin is only beneficial post-workout, the need for the high GI carbohydrates has declined considerably, and consuming these carbs throughout the rest of the day will do nothing except miraculously deposit fat and chunk all over your body. Based on your own body composition, carbohydrates can and should still be consumed throughout the rest of the day, as long as they are lower on the glycemic index and of a smaller quantity. If you are sensitive to carbs, you may need to cut back on your carbohydrate intake and limit your afternoon carbs to loads of vegetables (for filling).
On the other hand, protein is no longer required in the “fast-acting” form. This means that you can consume protein of the solid form (i.e. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, etc.). Because you do not need the protein to be absorbed immediately, and in fact your body may benefit from slower digesting proteins (especially since you won’t be eating for another 2-3 hours) you will benefit from eating something of substance. Not only do you need to continue eating protein for the next few meals, but it may be ideal to include some essential fatty acids (EFAs) in your diet. It could be as simple as taking some fish oil with your meal, or even having a piece of steak rather than chicken that does contain some fats (definitely not essential though).
Here is a breakdown of your post-workout meals:
- Immediately after workout: Post-workout shake
- 1-1.5 hours later: 4-8 ounces grilled chicken breast, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1 serving of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or VPX Thinfat® (EFA’s) drizzled onto rice.
- 2-3 hours later: 4-8 ounces grilled tilapia, 1 cup grilled asparagus, small salad with low/no fat dressing.
*depending on your body composition: you may need to increase or decrease the amount of carbohydrate and/or protein listed above.
The amount of meals you eat throughout the rest of the day solely depends on what time you had your post-workout meal and the time you go to bed. Some people say you should not eat right before bed, but what really matters is WHAT you eat before you go to bed. Considering the lack of energy use while asleep, if you eat a fat and carbohydrate filled meal right before bed, there will be no energy expenditure and everything you just ate will be directly stored as fat. If you consume a high quality lean protein before bed, your body will use that protein in the recovery/repair process that is going on while at rest. Plus, since you are in a catabolic state during sleep, the protein you consume before bed will feed your muscle throughout the night in hopes to avoid any muscle breakdown. If you are the type of person who works out at night and are left with not enough time for all of your meals, it is best to at least get one meal in an hour or so after your post-workout meal. If you really want to get another in, but don’t want to eat so much food, try a shake that has a blend of proteins like Protein Rush RTD. Having a blend of proteins rather than a whey protein takes on a “time-released” effect. Even though the proteins are not actually “time-released” you are consuming a blend of proteins that all absorb in the body at different rates, therefore; you are getting a “time-released” effect. This allows your body to have an on-going supply of protein throughout your ~8 hours of sleep in which your body is in a catabolic state. Nutrition makes up ~80% of your physique; Why would you work so hard in the gym, only to screw it all up by having poor nutrition? Stay away from high fat high sugar foods and stick to the ones that are proven to improve your overall health and appearance.