Best Post-Workout Fuel: Student Athlete Edition

Do you ever feel guilty about re-fueling after training or games? If you do, you’re not alone! Many athletes are uncomfortable with fueling after their training. Athletes in the RBSN sports nutrition coaching program, have shared with me that they feel like they will get fat or “ruin their workout” if they consume post-workout fuel afterwards. 

When I was a college athlete, I thought this too! I was convinced that if I ate carbohydrates and/or protein after training I would mitigate my performance results and “get bulky”. I was terrified that fueling post-workout would negatively impact my performance and I skipped eating after training. 

This is not the case! The truth is quite the opposite. No wonder I was tired, unhappy with my body composition, and always hurt! Having proper recovery fuel after training is essential for performance, recovery, and muscle protein synthesis. If I had known this during my playing days, I would not have been in the training room so much! 

Benefits of Post-Workout Fuel

Here are six of the biggest benefits of post-workout nutrition:

  • Help with desirable body composition
  • Build and maintain lean muscle mass
  • Speed up your recovery post-workout
  • Advance your performance 
  • Help manage cravings
  • Increase energy levels during the day

To adequately re-fuel your body, carbohydrates and protein should be your main focus after training. Protein is essential to prevent muscle breakdown, increase the formation/maintenance of muscle, and kickstart recovery. Since you are training at a high level every day, you need to be taking advantage of this important recovery period. 

Carbohydrates are crucial for proper refueling and replenishing intra-muscular glycogen stores. Glycogen is the stored energy your body uses as fuel during high-intensity training. You only have limited glycogen stores so they get used up quickly! Glycogen replenishment is more active the 60-90 minutes post-training and you want to take advantage of this extremely important period. 

Athletes in my sports nutrition program, follow these easy post-workout fuel guidelines to fuel properly for performance:

Protein: 20-30g of protein (ideally a complete protein with 2.5g of leucine to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis)

Carbohydrates: 60-90g of carbs (usually about a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein)

When Should You Be Consuming Fuel Post-Workout?

ASAP!

Athletes always get concerned when they hear ASAP. ASAP means “As Soon as Possible”. Does this mean you need to throw down a large protein shake as you leave the gym if it makes you sick? No. 

This is not “possible”. As an athlete, you have a two-hour window after training in which muscle protein synthesis is accelerated. Getting in fuel ASAP within that window is desirable to maximize recovery. 

It is important to remember that every athlete is different from others. You may find that you don’t have a problem eating immediately after training while your teammate struggles with it. Taking time to practice your post-workout fueling to find out what works best for you is important.

I encourage you to play around with it after practice to see what works best for you and what can be utilized on game day to promote proper recovery.

Are you an athlete interested in learning how to fuel better for your sport? Apply for one of our athlete sports nutrition coaching programs! We can help you feel confident and perform your best on and off the field!

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