This post is meant for people who work out hard and train as athletes. This is not meant for the people who use the elliptical in the gym simply to burn calories. Proper post-workout nutrition can speed muscle recovery and increase performance in future workouts; and I’m not talking supplements.
There was a study done on post workout recovery nutrition with Marines in basic training. This study compared recruits that received 100 calories of post-exercise nutrition including 8 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat to recruits that received a placebo. The recruits that received the post workout nutrition immediately after exercise had significantly less perceived muscle soreness, 33% less medical visits, 37% less muscle and joint related clinic visits, and 83% less medical visits for heat exhaustion, not to mention 28% less medical visits due to viruses and infection (Flakoll et al. 2004). Proper post workout nutrition can not only assist in recovery but also support the immune system.
An athlete has a window of about 30-45 minutes post workout to take advantage of optimal nutrient absorption for recovery. Specific post workout recovery needs are highly dependent on the workout that was done. Long cardio sessions need more carbohydrates to recover and weight lifting increases the need for post workout protein. So what does that mean for a person who does Crossfit? After a typical daily Crossfit workout that includes weight training and a WOD 100-250 calories should be sufficient. If you are doing longer workouts or multiple events you may adjust the amounts. The Zone ratio of macronutrients of 40/30/30 fits well for typical post workout needs.
For those people that are doing the nutrition challenge, this is where your personal goals are very relevant. If you are trying to lose weight, this post workout snack/meal would be one of the 5 meals on plan. If you are trying to increase strength/ performance, the decision would be up to you whether you want to add an extra snack into your day and increase your caloric intake or include your post workout as one of the 5 meals/snacks on plan. It does not take a lot of calories to achieve benefits post workout, the Marines in the study only had 100 calories post workout.
Post workout is one of the times where higher glycemic index foods can be very beneficial; one of the goals of post workout nutrition is to get easily digestible nutrients in the bloodstream quickly after the workout. Whole food examples of a post workout snack can include: a hardboiled egg and a piece of fruit, or a Greek yogurt, or even some banana and a small amount of peanut butter. If you like protein shakes, add a banana to your shake or drink it with a carbohydrate on the side.
Quick tip: If you choose to eat yogurt be very careful to read the nutritional facts on yogurt, many yogurts have a lot of added sugar or artificial sweeteners. One popular yogurt has 26 grams of sugar in a 6oz container.
Flakoll,P., T. Judy, K. Flinn, C. Carr, and S. Flinn. 2004. Postexercise protein supplementation improves health and muscle soreness during basic military training in Marine recruits. J Appl Physiol 96(3):951- 956; http://jap.physiology.org/content/96/3/951.