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The Most Anabolic Meal of the Day: Post Workout Eating



Aug 11, 2010
The Low Down

Alright, you've probably heard and read many times before the importance of a post workout meal, and if you haven't, where have you been? The post workout meal is one of the most important meals for any bodybuilder, this is where you give the body the nutrients, protein and carbs it needs to rebuild muscle tissue and manipulate hormone levels for optimum growth, if you miss this meal that stuff isn't there and you've just wasted an hour in the gym.

Post workout nutrition is important no matter what a persons goals are, whether it is to lose weight, gain mass or just maintain your current body weight. So let's discuss why it is a crucial part of your training diet.

Why After Excercise?

Working out whether it's running, lifting weights, or playing sports burns energy and this energy comes from glycogen which is stored in the bodies liver and broken down into glucose which gives you that energy you just burned off. Therefore you need glycogen to boost your workouts, how do you get glycogen? From eating carbohydrates of course. There are lots of different types of carbs as well, some have more or less glycogen then others, to see which ones those are you should refer to the Glycemic Index of foods. That is why people see a decrease in performance when they are on reduced carb diets, their body simply does not have the same amount of energy as it did when they were carb loaded.

But carbs are not the only post workout food you need, there's also the importance of protein. Your muscles grow from a process called protein synthesis, and for this protein synthesis your body needs protein which contains nutrients and amino acids which are very important for that process. It's also important to get protein after your workout so your body is not catabolizing itself and breaking down proteins from your own muscles, which is the opposite of what anyone wants.

On a hormonal level this meal is also very important, meaning that if you eat the right balance of protein and carbohydrates post workout you can manipulate these hormones naturally for an increase in growth hormone and insulin. Growth hormone and insulin are both vital hormones that help the body to grow, so what does this mean? It means if you eat right, you get big muscles.

Why am I mentioning all this on the focus of post workout meals? It's simple, everything I just mentioned is increased, a window of oppurtunity some call it, the first 2 hours after you exercise. That's 2 hours of time, long enough for anyone, so there's no excuse, to get that food in them and watch their body grow and recover.

What do I Need?

Alright, so now you know why you should this after your workouts, let's take a look at what you should use to efficiently do this. Remember I mentioned the glycemic index? Well now's your chance to use it, the first thing you need is a carbohydrate that is high on the glycemic index to spike your natural insulin levels, your glycogen levels are depleted after working out, that's why this is ok to do, I wouldn't suggest eating high GI foods when your glycogen levels are full, this might cause a negative reaction, meaning your body will store the excess as fat. Why insulin? Because insulin is a protein hormone that is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids (amino acids) and proteins. Having a high level of insulin, the reason why you want to eat a high GI carb, is because it slows down the decrease in amino acids and keeps your nitrogen balance at the positive level instead of the negative, which is usually the case post workout.

Since your muscles are breaking down during a workout it is not abnormal to see a negative nitrogen balance, so to get yourself into the positive nitrogen balance it is important to properly eat post workout or else you'll stay in that catabolic negative nitrogen balance state. Since this balance can only be achieved by cosuming protein it's not enough to just have carbs post workout. So make sure your meal or drink has protein in it aswell, remember you need both for this natural growth to occur. So find yourself a good, fast digesting protein such as whey isolate and a high GI carbohydrate, consume it after your workout, having both of them present will ensure your muscles grow.

There's also other things to consider as well, mainly free-form amino acids which you won't find in whole proteins, most you will get from whey isolate, but one you won't find in your whey isolate and the one we're going to look at is Leucine. Taking this single amino acid post workout has been shown in some studies to increase skeletal muscle growth, aren't you relieved to hear that you don't have to take all of the amino acids?

In recent studies it's been shown that Leucine supplementation was directly responsible for stimulating recovery of muscle protein synthesis and wasn't completly dependent on insulin levels alone. That means taking Leucine with a high GI carb will only enhance recovery further. It's that easy, remember there are people doing the research for us, it's up to us to read about it and use it to our advantage. There isn't an excuse for not educating yourself.

In fact Leucine is so important that one study reported that the anabolic effects of a mixture amino acids can be recreated from taking just one BCAA (branched chain amino acid) leucine on its own.

There's more, although if you're taking a whey isolate after your workouts, which has glutamine in it already, it doesn't hurt to take an additional dose of this amino because excercise will lower your glutamine levels. Glutamine may not be responsible for any muscle growth, but on terms of recovery and health studies have shown that having a base level of glutamine can enhance your immune system, therefore preventing illness and infections.

How Much Should I take?

Ok so you know what you need and how to get it, but how much of everything should you take. A recovery drink post workout is not completly neccessary it's just a suggestion. So if you don't have the money or you don't have the time, don't worry, it's not the end all, it was just suggested.

As far as protein and carbohydrate intake there seems to be some controversy in the ratios. Some studies show a 2:1 ration, some 3:1, and some 4:1, which means for you might be taking only 1g of protein for either 2, 3, or 4 grams of carbs. Which one is right for you? Well that is up to your own disgretion, if you're a more muscular person you may need more protein, so a 2:1 ratio would be good. If you're trying to lose weight that ratio might be good for you as well, it's dependent on the person really.

Studies have also given us enough research to know that the right amount of Leucine to take is approximately 3 grams , and the amount for glutmaine is 5 grams to be most effective. If you eat a real food meal post workout it's up to you to figure out which foods contain these nutrients, or you could supplement one and get the other from real food, it doesn't matter how you get them just as long as you do.

It's also recommended that you do not comsume fat or fibre in this post workout meal because they will slow down the absorption of everything and you may miss that anabolic window. And as I mentioned before, high glycemic foods should only be taken during post workout meals, but don't avoid carbs all together trhoughout the day, eat whole grain foods which are low on the glycemic index.

If you can manage to get this right for your post workout meal then I see no reason you shouldn't grow, at least as far as nutrition is concerned. So don't let any workout go wasted, don't skip on your post workout meal cause it may prove to be the most anabolic meal you eat each day. But most of all you should enjoy eathing this way, cause not only will it result in more muscle, but it will also result in good health.


VIP Member
Jan 27, 2013
I just hope your prepared to post at least 50 scientific studies backing this. 'Cause the other side has at least 49.


Beard of Knowledge VIP
May 6, 2013
LMFAO @ Mini's pic. I gotta save that one.

The anabolic window has been shown to be more like 24 hours PWO, NOT 30 or 1 hour. IMO, carbs PWO are more important than protein as well.