Post Workout Nutrition for Muscle Gains

 August 23, 2017|  Lauren

Post workout meal was considered by some as the most important meal of the day when it came to maximizing muscle gains.  This post-workout time frame was called the ‘anabolic window’ and consisted of the first 1 to 3 hours after your workout.  It was believed that post-workout your muscle glycogen and amino acids were at their lowest and without replenishment would remain in a catabolic state.

But most research completed on post-workout nutrition were performed on those in a fasted state, which means any nutrition provided post-workout would no doubt result in an anabolic response.  The reality is, post-workout nutrition is more likely dependent on your workout intensity, how well you metabolize the food you eat and whether or not you ate prior to your workout.

What does that mean for your post-workout nutrition?  If your workout was all out, and you managed to sufficiently deplete your amino and glycogen stores, it is essential to top up the tank, however making sure it’s within that first hour post-workout is probably not that necessary.  Consistent nutrition will help accelerate post-workout recovery and get you in the gym sooner.

Here are 4 post-workout nutrition tips for post workout gains.

Simple Carbs

When it comes to making gains, no one can deny the positive anabolic effects of insulin.    Insulin is an anabolic shuttling hormone who’s major job in the body is to move sugar and other important nutrients including amino acids to the muscle cells where they can be stored as glycogen or immediately used if required.  When insulin is released, it shuts down catabolic processes and hormones from being released.   High glycemic, starchy vegetables such as white potato and white rice provide a rich source of simple carbs.  Just one medium potato provides 37 g of carbs, 5 g of fiber and 70% of your daily value of the recovery antioxidant vitamin C.

Easy Digesting Proteins

Post workout easy, fast digesting proteins are the best to choose to help maximize up-take.  This includes proteins like eggs and chicken over slow movers like steak and dairy protein like cottage cheese.  Fast digesting proteins that are considered high quality and highly bio-available deliver all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair including BCAAs.  A 100 g serving of chicken breast delivers 31 g of muscle building protein!

Healthy Fats

When it comes to gains, healthy fats are essential.  They not only help reduce the inflammatory process post-workout to help stimulate recovery and get you back in the gym sooner, but they also help reduce catabolic hormones such as cortisol.  This stress hormone can breakdown muscle and inhibit you from making a full recovery.  It has been shown that diets rich in omega-3 can also help reduce oxidative stress and reduce the inflammatory by-products of exercise that can occur in the muscle and joints. In addition to jump starting recovery, healthy fats can also help boost testosterone levels.  Higher fat diets have been shown to result in higher testosterone levels in men compared to diets of the same caloric level that are lower in fat.   Choose fresh water fish such as salmon which, provides 27 g of protein and 8 g of healthy fats in a 100 g serving.

Antioxidant Rich Foods

Foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and natural phyto-oxidants or antioxidants can help protect the body against muscle damage brought on by oxidative stress and inflammation.  A recent study, showed accelerated muscle strength and recovery in participants that were given a blueberry smoothie prior to and after exercise.  A faster rate of decrease in oxidative stress was also seen in the group who were given the smoothie. At 36-hours post exercise the results were significant, showing increased antioxidant capacity. Blueberry’s active compounds include anthocyanin and polyphenolic compounds that are common in many berry fruits. These compounds are thought to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. These compounds are not just found in blueberries but are also found in raspberries and blackberries. Add them to a post-workout shake; toss in your oatmeal or even on a salad.


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James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory mediator production. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):343S-8S.

Ivy J. Regulation of muscle glycogen repletion, muscle protein synthesis and repair following exercise. JISSN. 2004. 3:131-138

McLeay Y, et al. Effect of New Zealand blueberry consumption on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. JISSN. 2012. 9: 19.

Serhan CN, Chiang N, Van Dyke TE. Resolving inflammation: dual anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution lipid mediators. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008 May;8(5):349-61.



 August 23, 2017 | Lauren

About the Author

Lauren Jacobsen is the Director of Nutrition for Kcal Brands and the Head of Fuel Up. Lauren has over 15 years of experience in nutrition and supplementation focused on physique athlete development. Lauren is also a former IFBB competitive figure athlete, and long time contributor to fitness magazines worldwide.

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