Real Talk: How Important Is Meal Timing Post-Workout?
How and when to fuel post-workout has become a fairly hot topic in the fitness industry as of late. For years, fitness enthusiasts lived and died by the urgency of the anabolic window, myself included. We believed that it was imperative to get our post-workout fuel into us immediately at all costs. In recent years, the necessity of this extremely narrow window of time to refuel has been questioned, and we now know the answer is not as black and white as we once thought.
When post-workout fuel is important.
One major factor in how crucial the timing of our post-workout nutrition is—believe it or not—is our pre-workout nutrition. For those early risers who prefer to head to the gym on an empty stomach, the timing post-workout becomes more important. The body has been in a fasted state overnight, so ingesting 30 grams of protein or so post-workout can help maximize muscle growth and reverse the catabolic state in the body.
Some great portable, convenient fuel options to have on hand when you hit the gym are a scoop of your favorite whey isolate with fruit, or scrambled egg whites in a whole-wheat wrap.
When post-workout fuel is less urgent.
For those who prefer to eat before heading to the gym, and include protein in their pre-workout meal, the timing of their post-workout fuel becomes less urgent. Here, the delivery of amino acids to your muscles can be raised for several hours post-workout. That means that if you don't eat immediately after your sweat session, your body will still have the amino acids from your pre-workout meal to use for growth and recovery.
So if you forget to bring your meal or shake with you to the gym, there's no need to panic. The window of time to refuel is not as narrow.
The most important thing when it comes to working out is making sure that you're meeting your body's macronutrient needs throughout the course of your day. An easy way to do this and keep your energy level high and consistent is to plan and space your meals out evenly every few hours during the day. That is my personal preference and how I personally choose to space my meals. However, this is not realistic for everyone, and eating plans should fit around your schedule, preferences, and lifestyle.
If, for example, you love intermittent fasting or you're a busy professional with time constraints and can only manage three meals a day, you don't have to worry. Meeting your body's macronutrient overall needs by the end of the day is what matters most.
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