How much protein and carbs do I need right after a workout?
March 15, 2017 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I just recently started working out for the first time in my life. I'm also 100 lbs overweight, and having a hard time figuring out what and how much I should be eating post-workout, for muscle recovery.

I recently started Crossfit, which I love (well, at least I love the gym/box I go to). But this is my first time regularly working out, and definitely my first time lifting weights on a regular basis, and I'm having trouble figuring out what and how much I should eat for recovery after a session.

After a lot of sifting through all the bro science, it seems like the consensus is that I should have .25-.5 grams of protein per kilo of weight, plus twice that amount of carbs. I weigh 120 kilos, so that would mean 40 grams of protein and 80 grams of carbs, which is 600 calories - and this is just the post-workout snack, and doesn't even account for any fat that's involved. I go in the evening, so I guess this could just be dinner, but then it would be hard to get the nutrients within an hour of finishing, which is I think what you're supposed to do.

So, are those ratios right? Should someone of my weight be having that amount of protein/carbs after a workout, or should it be scaled down because I'm significantly overweight? I should note that weight loss is not my primary goal, but I'd prefer not to gain weight (though I understand muscle/fat weight gain difference) and eventually I would like to start losing weight.
posted by the sockening to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
That's probably too much. There isn't any evidence that supports the existence of a post-exercise 'anabolic' window, and as long as you're eating a balanced diet throughout the day, you should be fine in the muscle recovery department. Now, on the other hand, if you were a serious competition bodybuilder (or a powerlifter focused on aesthetics) and wanted to maximize muscle hypertrophy any way you could, then nutrient timing could probably make sense. But it doesn't sound like hypertrophy is your primary goal, nor does it sound like you're pushing yourself so hard to the extent that you have to start to sweat the small stuff like nutrient timing.

There's also this, which further refutes the anabolic window theory: Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations
posted by un petit cadeau at 4:59 PM on March 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

If your workout is entirely lifting weights rather than moving your own body via sit-ups or walking or something like that, it seems like it shouldn't need to be proportionate to your body weight. So maybe a protein-oriented snack and then dinner later, subtracting the content of the snack from dinner? I'm not a bro scientist or anything, though.
posted by XMLicious at 5:00 PM on March 15, 2017

What un petit cadeau said. Make sure you're eating well in your normal diet and don't worry about it.
posted by asterix at 5:06 PM on March 15, 2017

Response by poster: If your workout is entirely lifting weights rather than moving your own body via sit-ups or walking or something like that,

It's a mix of lifting weights, short bursts of high-intensity cardio (like jumping rope or rowing on a machine) and things like push-ups, sit-ups, and air squats.
posted by the sockening at 5:07 PM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you are trying to count macros, start here: Mike Vacanti. You can adjust from there for the results you want. I used his program and had a lot of success.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:53 PM on March 15, 2017

I also support the notion of not overthinking it.

Back when I worked with a trainer, she suggested hydrating and getting some protein within an hour of working out. Literally, she recommended drinking a glass of chocolate milk. For me, carbs are a total no so I subbed in almond milk or similar.

If you're lifting in the evenings, having a glass of milk before bed might not be too onerous.
posted by Sublimity at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel better if I eat something about a half hour after working out. But I think you should try to keep it to ~300 calories, half protein and half carbs. Maybe try to replace a snack with it.

If you're going for dinner, that even seems like a big ask. I'd shoot for 15 to 20 grams (a littlr more is probably fine) protein for that kind of dinner and a bit of carbs. You want to get some protein and have reasonable portions for your goals. You're trying to be healthy and it doesn't need to be hard science. I think that's more for folks who are competing. Don't stress yourself out over it, and eat something with a bit of protein you enjoy.
posted by Kalmya at 8:05 PM on March 15, 2017

I tend to roll my eyes at most fitness related studies, because n is usually like 12 and it's usually all college age men anyway.

Figuring out what works for you and listening to it is especially important for something like Crossfit. For me, if I lifted or worked out in the evening and didn't get enough protein, I would be trashed the next day. A simple whey protein shake immediately after I came home helped a lot. And if I had a half a protein shake when I inevitably got up to feed my cat in the middle of the night, then the next day was more like "holy shit this was what being 25 was like, remember that?"

Anyway, yeah, don't overthink it. Just try simple stuff and do what makes you feel better. Don't bother trying to optimize for weight loss or anything else yet. In the beginning it's way more important to just keep showing up and to not get hurt. Hit post too soon: you are way more likely to keep going and not get hurt if you eat more protein than you need rather than less.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:35 PM on March 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Since you work out in the evening, I would just make sure you have a nutritious dinner afterwards and wouldn't worry about having a big snack inbetween.

Also, if you're new to exercising, here are two things to keep in mind: when you start a new kind of exercise and start making your muscles do new things, you're going to be a bit sore. It's just a part of the process, and I don't think there's a magical solution that will make you not-sore at the beginning. The thing that helps is to keep exercising and eventually you get to a point where your muscles do things fluidly that used to be a strain.

However (and this is important) there are levels of sore, and you should listen to your body. If you are waking up the morning after your workout as stiff as a board, then that probably means that you're pushing your body too hard and you should probably scale back a bit. I think the easiest way to get injured is to try and do too much too fast. It can feel a bit silly sometimes to go to the gym and spend 20 minutes doing gentle exercises and then going home again, but in my experience, that's better than going too hard at the beginning and then having to stop after a couple of weeks because of a strained muscle, etc.
posted by colfax at 2:33 AM on March 16, 2017

Nthing don't overthink this, especially with the cult-like antics of some Crossfit trainers.

I'm pretty athletic and one of my kids does Crossfit. I've also heard chocolate milk a lot, but we're not huge dairy fans and avoid sugar, so we both eat apples and cheese sticks after workouts.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:40 AM on March 16, 2017

Another vote for don't overthink. I'm of the opinion that unless you are an elite athlete or have other health issues that are impacted by diet, eating a generally balanced, healthy diet of complex carbs, lean proteins, good fats and lots of veggies is all you need to know. If you feel like it, have a small healthy snack after you work out and remember to stay hydrated.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:13 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been seeing a nutritionist for the last couple months. It's worked wonders when just working out didn't. It really takes the guess work out of what you should be eating as you build muscle and try to loose fat and weight. I would highly recommend it.
posted by trbrts at 6:45 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! I do have a habit of overthinking (that's why I'm a mefite) especially about food (that's part of why I'm 100 lbs overweight) so I appreciate the consensus of "eat balanced meals and it'll work out." The main thing I've been experiencing, other than the expected soreness, is ravenous hunger the day after working out, but I think I'm going to experiment with eating more protein for dinner the nights I go to Crossfit and see how that works (I already eat plenty of carbs). It's also frankly just fun and useful to have a different way of thinking about food (as fuel) that I haven't had before.
posted by the sockening at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ask your Crossfit coaches—they can likely help you with nutrition questions too.
posted by squasher at 9:35 PM on March 16, 2017

Figure out your macros for the day, don't worry about timing. Just eat what you need to within the day and you'll be fine. Don't over complicate it.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:54 PM on March 19, 2017

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