Refuelling post-workout is an important first step in giving the body what it needs to adapt to your training effectively, to prepare the body for the next workout and adapt body composition. For those looking to improve their recovery and support their body from training demands, refuelling with the correct ratio of carbohydrates and protein can help optimise adaptations and manage muscle soreness.
However, it is important to remember that for both athletes and the average active person, refuelling following exercise is not effective if the rest of your diet does not meet nutritional needs throughout the day.
Why is 20g of protein needed post-workout?
Many research studies have experimented with varied amounts of protein post-exercise such as 10g, 20g and 40g, to assess which best stimulates protein synthesis (muscle building). One study demonstrated that 20g protein proved to be the most successful (1). Although protein is an important factor of recovery, following high intensity training protein alone may not be sufficient.
As glycogen stores (stored carbohydrates) are depleted with high intensity and/ or prolonged exercise, combining carbohydrates with protein is key. This helps to restore glygogen levels and aids protein synthesis. Both the protein and carbohydrates aid faster restoration when taken within one hour of intense exercise to ensure adequate energy for your next workout. The best combination is a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein (30-60g carbs to10-20g protein).
For elite or well trained athletes, 20g protein every 3 hours 4 times over has shown to be the most efficient strategy to maximise protein synthesis. However, this strategy is not necessary for hobby athletes.
Post-workout meal examples with a 3:1 ratio:
200g natural unsweetened yogurt, a handful of nuts, 2 tsp.honey & 1,5 cups mixed berries
2 fried eggs with 2 slices of sourdough bread
1 scoop whey protein powder in a banana smoothie
1 scoop vegan protein powder in a banana smoothie
1/2 tin tuna fish mixed with 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1 tin beans (of choice) & olive oil
1) Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Ross, M. L., Camera, D. M., West, D. W. D., Broad, E. M., … Coffey, V. G. (2013). Timing and distribution of protein ingestion during prolonged recovery from resistance exercise alters myofibrillar protein synthesis. The Journal of Physiology, 591(9), 2319–2331.