Do I need to eat straight after my workout?
Fuel your training to help optimise your workouts
Is a statement i'm sure we've all heard.
It's something that most personal trainers will drill into you along with
"You need to get some protein in 30 minutes after your workout to optimise muscle growth, recovery and regeneration"
As we generally have enough energy and glycogen stores for around 60 minutes of exercise, post training nutrition is going to be significantly more important for the average athlete training 1 hour or so every other day, than what they eat before they train. Post-training you need to re-fuel and replenish the body with all the macro and micronutrients, electrolytes and hydration that it just lost.
Conversely, for a marathon runner, Olympian or athlete training upwards of 2, 3 or 4 hours every day 6-7 days per week, they are going to have to look a lot more closely at the pre, during and post training nutrition to ensure that they are optimising their nutrient intake and getting the most out of their sessions.
But do you necessarily need to eat straight after your workout to optimise muscle recovery?
The current research is showing that this is not actually the case.
Many studies are showing that we can adequately fuel our bodies and have the same muscle regeneration benefits as people that eat 30 minutes after a workout to those that eat 5 or 8 hours after a workout, as long as we have optimal protein intake within that 24 hour period.
A study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport by Pihoker et al (2018), conducted a study on 43 trained females that were divided into 3 groups. One receiving a supplement consisting of 25g of carbohydrates and 16g of protein pre-training, one receiving that same supplement post training and then a control group that didn't receive a supplement at all. At the end of the 6 week trial, their study found that there were no significant differences in the body composition variables between the different groups.
Another review published in Nutrients, in 2016 by Witard et al, looks at a number of studies and their relationship to the optimal protein intake window. Up until a few years ago, It used to be thought that in order to achieve optimal muscle protein synthesis and to allow muscles to properly regenerate and repair, ingestion of protein was needed within 30 minutes to one hour of finishing resistance training. However, all of the data within these studies has now showed muscles elicit a similar response to protein whether 1, 2 or 3 hours post workout. Also showing that in young adults, muscles are still responsive to protein at least 24 hours after exercise, essentially ruling out the 1 hour anabolic window to increase muscle that was initially thought.