Optimal Post Workout Nutrition

Everyone knows nutrition is essential to muscular hypertrophy and meeting/maintaining fitness goals!

Training is the easy part. You go to the gym, pick up heavy things, put them down, and work in a little bit of HIIT cardio here and there.

Nutrition, however, is confusing. Everyone has a different opinion on what to eat pre and post workout. There are all types of diet techniques–IIFYM, carb back loading, intermittent fasting, paleo diet, primal diet, standard body-building diet, the zone diet, and SO MANY MORE. 

So, what’s right and what’s wrong?!

Well, unfortunately, nothing is right or wrong. Everyone is unique and different, so what works for Arnold or your favorite bodybuilder might not work for you.

BUT! We can look at the FACTS from scientific studies, and then we can do our own studies on ourselves–trial and error until you find what works for YOU and YOUR BODY.

Let’s look at the research!

Study numero uno! (You can read the full study here if you’d like.)

“In general, protein supplementation pre- andpost-workout increases physical performance, training session recovery, lean body mass, muscle hypertrophy, and strength. Specific gains, differ however based on protein type and amounts. Studies on timing of consumption of milk have indicated that fat-free milk post-workout was effective in promoting increases in lean body mass, strength, muscle hypertrophy and decreases in body fat. The leucine content of a protein source has an impact on protein synthesis, and affects muscle hypertrophy. Consumption of 3-4 g of leucine is needed to promote maximum protein synthesis. An ideal supplement following resistance exercise should contain whey protein that provides at least 3 g of leucine per serving.”

In summary: This study suggests that 3-4 g of leucine, an amino acid, be consumed with post workout protein along with maltodextrin or glucose (simple carbs that help spike insulin and help leucine be more effective) to increase muscle hypertrophy.

This study also suggests that pre-workout meals should consist of essential amino acids and dextrose (another simple sugar).

Foods high in leucine include egg whites, tuna fish, and turkey!

Study number 2! (You can read this full study here!)

The second study I found compared consuming milk or a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink post workout in untrained men (ages 18-25).

The study found that both the group that consumed milk and the carb-electrolyte group gained muscle mass. However, the milk group tended to show a greater increase in fat-free soft tissue mass than the carb-electrolyte group.

Study number 3 (You can read this study here!)

“Athletes should aim to achieve carbohydrate intakes to meet the fuel requirements of their training programme and to optimize restoration of muscle glycogen stores between workouts. General recommendations can be provided, preferably in terms of grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of the athlete’s body mass, but should be fine-tuned with individual consideration of total energy needs, specific training needs and feedback from training performance. It is valuable to choose nutrient-rich carbohydrate foods and to add other foods to recovery meals and snacks to provide a good source of protein and other nutrients. These nutrients may assist in other recovery processes and, in the case of protein, may promote additional glycogen recovery when carbohydrate intake is suboptimal or when frequent snacking is not possible.”

Summary: This study made a lot of sense. Athletes need to fuel for their individual needs. If you are training twice per day and have less than 8 hours between workouts, you should consume a greater amount of carbohydrates with a moderate to higher glycemic index. If not, however, you should eat enough carbohydrates to recover from your program and structure your greater intake of moderate to high glycemic carbs closer to your post workout period. Fat intake was not shown to benefit post workout recovery.

Moderate to high glycemic index foods include: raisins, honey, potatoes, muesli, watermelon, bagels, white rice, parsnips, bran flakes, and many more!

Study number 4 (You can read this study here!)

This study didn’t tell us anything new. This study said that protein is the most important for post-workout recovery and muscle hypertrophy. It said whey protein is optimal because of its fast absorption and amino acid profile, and that 20 grams of protein should be consumed either immediately following resistance training or during training for maximum protein synthesis.

Study number 5 (You can read this study here!)

“It has been observed that muscle glycogen synthesis is twice as rapid if carbohydrate is consumed immediately after exercise as opposed to waiting several hours, and that a rapid rate of synthesis can be maintained if carbohydrate is consumed on a regular basis. For example, supplementing at 30-min intervals at a rate of 1.2 to 1.5 g CHO x kg(-1) body wt x h(-1) appears to maximize synthesis for a period of 4- to 5-h post exercise. If a lighter carbohydrate supplement is desired, however, glycogen synthesis can be enhanced with the addition of protein and certain amino acids. Furthermore, the combination of carbohydrate and protein has the added benefit of stimulating amino acid transport, protein synthesis and muscle tissue repair. Research suggests that aerobic performance following recovery is related to the degree of muscle glycogen replenishment.”


All of these studies basically make the same point.

No matter what your goals consume moderate to high glycemic index carbohydrates post workout to maximize muscle synthesis and recovery post workout.

If you are doing two workouts per day consume more carbohydrates than you normally would. If you find your performance is suffering consume more carbohydrates post workout for recovery.

If your goals are to gain muscle, add calories preferably in the post workout window in the form of carbohydrates and protein. You should be eating in a caloric surplus.

If your goal is to lose weight you should limit your carbohydrate intake during the day, BESIDES POST WORKOUT. Post workout carbohydrates are essential to recovery NO MATTER WHAT YOUR GOAL.

Protein intake should be 1-1.2 grams per pound of body weight.

Fat intake isn’t as crucial to muscle growth and recovery, however, we DO still need to intake healthy fats–ESPECIALLY FEMALES. DO NOT FEAR FATS. Our bodies need essential fatty acids that it cannot create. We can only get these through diet.



Work out hard, eat clean, nutritious foods, and results are bound to follow!!!


❤ God Bless you all!


Published by Danielle

28-year-old, Christian, family nurse practitioner with a love for health, fitness, wellness, medicine, and the human body.

2 thoughts on “Optimal Post Workout Nutrition

  1. Another fine post my friend!!

    I am finding out that the 30-70 rule is true. I have gotten the gym part down, but am struggling with the eating part. Lots of good information that I can tryout and see what works best for me.

    Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and Blessings to you as well. 🙂


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