Carbs? Protein? Fats? Absolutely nothing at all? Every gym rat has his own theory about what's best to eat after a work-out. Who's right?
First off, if you are one of the “absolutely nothing” people, you are dead wrong. Sure, you may be exercising hard to lose weight, but eating the right foods shortly after running or weight training can actually assist that process, not work against it.
When you exercise, especially intensely, your muscles draw upon their stores of glycogen for fuel. Many of the proteins in your muscles also become damaged at the gym. Your body will naturally try to refill its glycogen sources and rebuild its proteins as soon as possible aster a work out. Helping it to do that, by eating the right foods shortly after a work-out, will help you build back muscles and, so, shed fat.
Help your muscles recover by consuming between 0.14 to 0.23 grams of protein per pound of your body weight post-workout. That will likely translate somewhere between 20 to 40 grams of protein, enough to maximize the body’s ability to recover after physical stress.
To top off your glycogen stores, you will need carbs. Endurance exercises – the treadmill, the stairmaster, the elliptical, etc. – all requite more carbs than body building, interestingly enough. Down about 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 45 minutes after training to goose your glycogen stores back to where they want to be. Consume your carbs and proteins together, as glycogen synthesis is better stimulated when these nutrients are in sync. A good rule of thumb is that your post-workout snack should consist of a 3 to 1 carb to protein ratio.
The timing on that 45-minute window matters, too. Studies have shown that delaying your consumption by as little as two hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50 percent lower rates of glycogen synthesis.
Fats are not forbidden! They will slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, but they won't cancel them out. A study has shown that even a high-fat meal (45 percent energy from fat) after a work-out won't affect muscle glycogen synthesis.