Many athletes will train hard, buy the best equipment, analyze their power files and develop training plans for optimal performance. Recently I have taken a serious interest in a very overlooked component of performance which is nutrition.
The focus on this post will be eating after your workouts. You should strive to eat your recovery food immediately after training. For cyclist, this could mean getting extra chamois time. The window really is 20 minutes, therefore your post workout food should be prepared prior to your workout. When doing some research as to exactly what this food should be I ran into some contradictions. It is widely accepted that the food should contain carbohydrates and protein, but how much of each? I was taught that if you were mixing a drink for fuel during a workout it should contain a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrate to protein. For recovery purposes it should be a ratio of 2:1. Many suggestions today that can be found state the same, however there a plenty of studies that have shown that it should be a 4:1 ratio for recovery as well.
The purpose of this recovery meal is to replenish the stored glycogen that is found in your body and that was used during the workout. Immediately following your training, you body is the most susceptible to replacing the glycogen. The carbohydrates will be converted to the glycogen. The added protein will double the insulin response and will increase the restoring of the glycogen. In a study there were 100% increase in the glycogen restore in those that took a carbohydrate protein meal. When doing a search as to what ratio was better, the studies that suggested a 2:1 were more strength related training while those that suggested a 4:1 were endurance related.
The post workout meal could be broken down into two stages, the snack and the meal. The snack needs to be immediate and start the process of storing glycogen. The meal needs to follow and be consumed within the 2 hours after the workout. Here is a thought: Within 2 hours after a workout you should consume 0.3-0.6 grams of carbohydrates. I will take me for instance. I weigh 185 lbs currently. If I go out for 1 hour doing intervals I probably am closer to needing the 0.3 grams of carbohydrates. That is 56 grams I would need to consume. If I went out and performed threshold efforts for 3 hrs, I probably need to replenish more on the level of 0.6 grams per pound which would be 112 grams of carbohydrates. Then when you add your protein in, it means, in keeping with the 4:1 or 2:1 ratio you will need to consume 14-28 grams of protein (4:1). Lets say than I decide after my workout to eat 2 hard boiled eggs (12g of protein) and 1 banana (31g of carbohydrates). I would then want to consume the remainder of the meal within two hours.
If you take anything from this post it should be to treat your post workout meal like you would a critical interval within your workout. Find out what works for you, whether it is a drink, food or a mixture of both. Do some research on your own and play with different combination of foods. Lastly, leave comments on this post as to what works for your and what are your favorite post workout meals.