Dara Duff-Bergeron: Sweaty Mummy


Your Post-Workout Meal Might Make You Fat

Knowing When & When Not To Fuel

I get all kinds of questions from clients, Belly Bootcampers and readers, but my favourite questions of all are from my family and friends. I’ve learned from experience that no one wants the personal trainer in the family to “suggest” diet and exercise improvements they might make... So, when a relative or friend asks my advice I’m always stoked.

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My cousins, R & W, are re-vamping their lifestyle, cutting out processed and greasy foods and starting a jogging program every morning. Amazing!  So R & W were researching smoothie recipes for after their morning jogs and wondering if they should have a post-workout snack later in the day when they do a little pilates.

In my last blog, I discussed the post-workout nutrition that is appropriate for someone training for a competitive event or training very hard and/or long, most days of the week.

If you are not training heavily more than one hour, 5-7 days per week, this blog is for you. 

For example, maybe you...
jog a few miles every morning
do some strength training 5 days per week for about 30-60 minutes (if you’re chatting, resting, drinking coffee, waiting for equipment or talking on your phone between sets, you might spend 90 minutes in the gym but actually only spend half that time actively exercising...)
do some cardio and/or light strength training/yoga//pilates a few times per week

If this sounds relatively similar to your exercise routine, particularly in that your primary focus is general fitness, you are not training for a specific event, and the intensity of your workouts is challenging but not uncomfortable, then here is what I suggest:

1. After a cardio workout of roughly an hour or less, you do not need a post-workout meal. You have burned a few hundred calories, perhaps, which the body is apt to handle and which will be completely negated as easily as 1 piece of bread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Drink some water and eat according to your hunger and/or next planned meal.

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2. If you've exercised on an empty stomach (usually this is first thing in the morning), do follow your workout with a balanced breakfast of protein, carbohydrate and fat.  Time this meal within 45 minutes of your workout and you'll absorb the most possible carbohydrate into your muscles so you are better fuelled for the next time you exercise.

3. Attempt to schedule your workouts so they fall before a regular meal time so you can enjoy the benefits of a post-workout meal without adding an additional meal (and those additonal calories) to your day.  This is especially important if you are trying to lose body fat.

4. Here's when you do want to eat. After a strength training workout or intense and/or long cardio session, your muscles are damaged and depleted by the work they have done and require the amino acids of protein to recover, plus the sugar of carbohydrate to have energy for your next session.

Focus on protein after your workout.  A 1:1 or 2:1 carbohydrate to protein (in grams of carbohydrate versus grams of protein) ratio is good following an intense strength training session or circuit training, interval training or other challenging cardiovascular workout.

Generally, at least 10-20 grams of protein is recommended (1/2 cup of cottage cheese, a few ounces of lean meat, a couple of eggs, etc.). If you can stomach more than this, go for it.

Carbohydrate consumed after a workout helps to utilize the post-workout protein and will be much less likely to be converted to fat, so this is one time not to go all Atkins.

Have your post-workout snack ready to go and make it something easy to eat quickly.  If you shower, drive home, check your email, scramble some eggs and sit down to eat 90 minutes after your workout, you've missed the window to fuel optimally.

Be honest with yourself.  Don't eat like a bodybuilder if you exercise like a bunny rabbit.  If you exercise mostly in fits and starts, for short periods of time or primarily do cardio, focus on eating 3-4 good meals each day and drink to thirst. 

'Cause you know what happens to bodybuilders when they stop training heavily and keep eating like Olympians?

Of course, these are general guidelines.  If you've got a specific question about your own workouts and post-workout nutrition, please ask below or email dara[at]fitfamily[dot]ca.