When it comes to getting results, so often we’re focused on choosing the best pre workout supplement, finding the “perfect” training program, and eating the right foods, but one of the most underrated, yet most impactful, aspects of getting results is recovery nutrition -- what you eat after your workout.
Intense exercise (as you probably know) depletes glycogen stores and creates micro-tears in muscle tissue. The quicker you can get in the essential nutrients your body needs to kickstart and sustain the recovery process (i.e. carbohydrates and protein), the better your recovery will be, which means the sooner you can get back in the gym and keep making improvements in your strength and physique!
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that different workouts place different demands on the body, which means that post-workout recovery meals aren’t a one-size-fits all solution. They can be tailored and tweaked for your specific needs to enhance your personal recovery and results.
Here are 6 ideal recovery meals for different workouts.
Resistance training workouts are focused on building muscle and strength. They deplete a fair amount of glycogen and create tears in muscle fibers.
The perfect recovery meal for a resistance training workout is a mixture of fast-digesting carbohydrates and protein, which help replenish glycogen, stop protein breakdown, and ignite protein synthesis (which supports muscle recovery and growth).
One of our favorite go-to post-workout recovery meals, that also requires no effort at all to fix, is a scoop of our top-rated 1UP Whey protein + a scoop of 1UP Tri-Carb. This contains the perfect blend of fast-digesting carbohydrates and protein to enhance recovery, replenishment and growth..
Plus, whey protein is naturally rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), especially leucine, which are known to combat catabolism (muscle breakdown) and promote anabolism (muscle building).
Cardio workouts have two primary goals -- to improve cardiovascular fitness and to burn calories.
If you’re trying to burn fat and lose weight, you might be tempted to skip eating to maximize fat burning post workout and/or eliminate carbohydrates from your post-workout meal. However, failing to nourish your mind and body post-exercise can actually lead to more cravings as well as increased calorie intake the rest of the day (which ultimately undermines your fat loss efforts).
An ideal recovery meal from a tough cardio session contains a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and omega-3 fats. An example of this would be a piece of grilled salmon on top of a bed of spinach, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and shaved red onions all topped off with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
Morning fasted cardio is a great way to start the day -- you’re boosting metabolism, increasing levels of feel-good chemicals like endorphins, and burning calories (especially from fat!).
While it’s ok to train fasted, when you’re finished training, you want to make sure to get in a post-workout meal to prevent any muscle breakdown and support the muscle recovery and glycogen replenishment processes.
However, an issue for many individuals is time.
Typically, fasted cardio is performed first thing in the morning, after which most people have to shower, change and get to work.
This doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to prepare a five-star breakfast feast.
Fear not, for we have a couple of easy-to-fix recovery meals.
We already mentioned one -- a scoop of 1UP protein powder mixed with a serving of Tri-Carb -- but, let’s say you’re in the mood for something else. Another option is having a serving of Greek yogurt with a piece of fresh fruit. Or, you can prep something the night before, such as overnight oats or hard-boiled eggs and a banana or apple.
Short Intense Workouts
Not all workouts or exercise regimens have your muscles working non-stop. In fact, most sports typically involve short bursts of intense effort (i.e. tennis, football, etc.).
The longer you play, the deeper into your physical and mental energy reserves you delve.
After you’re finished, it’s imperative to get a quality meal in containing a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Now, you don’t need to go overboard with your calorie intake, but you want something to hold you over until your next meal. Something as simple as a peanut butter (or other nut butter sandwich) and a protein shake could easily fit the bill. This snack delivers quality protein and carbohydrates to satisfy hunger both in the short-term and tide you over for a few hours all the while supplying the body with the essential “raw materials” it needs to support the recovery process.
Tempo workouts toe the line between endurance and intensity. You’ll burn a ton of calories during these workouts, but you’ll also deplete a considerable amount of glycogen.
Long, intense workouts can also sometimes reduce appetite, but, even if you’re not feeling hungry, it’s imperative to get some kind of nutrition into your system.
On those occasions when you may not be hungry after a workout, a prime option is to have a smoothie composed of a scoop of protein powder, milk, frozen fruit, and a spoonful of nut butter.
Liquid meals tend to be easier to get down than whole-food meals, especially when you’re not feeling hungry. Smoothies, when made right, are also packed with nutrition -- protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants -- to support glycogen repletion, protein synthesis and muscle recovery.
Endurance training sessions place a heavy demand on the body’s glycogen stores. Even if you’ve had a carbohydrate-rich pre workout meal, training for hours on end will require some intra workout supplementation, such as an easy-to-digest shake consisting of a scoop of Tri-Carb + a serving of BCAA/EAA.
After your endurance session is over, focus on eating a relatively large, well-balanced meal, such as a chicken fajita bowl, composed of grilled chicken, black beans, rice, assorted grilled veggies, and a serving of sliced avocado or fresh guacamole for some healthy fats and added potassium (which can be depleted during endurance training sessions).