If you're currently trying to build muscle, one thing you absolutely must do is get a good post-workout meal set-up going. Unless you are feeding your body after these intestinal sessions, you are not going to see the results you're looking for.
When it comes to post-workout nutrition, the two main macronutrients you will want to focus on include carbohydrates and protein. You want to avoid fat during this time however because it will only slow digestion down, meaning it will take longer for the amino acids and glucose to get into the muscle cells where they are needed.
That said, what are the best foods to eat or drink during that period? Is a liquid meal the best or should you opt for a solid meal – or does it matter?
The first thing you need to ensure you are getting in some protein. You've just worked your muscles hard and as such, they need the building blocks to both repair themselves and hopefully grow new muscle tissue. Amino acids are just the thing to do this.
In terms of total grams consumed, a good ballpark is between 20 and 40 grams depending on your body weight, the intensity and duration of the lifting session.
You can certainly eat more if you prefer, but this amount should get the job done and after that, you'd be better off focusing on your carbohydrates.
Many people prefer using protein powder immediately after their workout both because it is convenient, and also because many protein powders have been specifically designed so that they are released into the blood stream as quickly as possible and then, really give the muscles what they need.
When purchasing a protein powder for this need, look for what's called an 'isolate' as that's going to be most rapid.
If you'd rather not use a protein powder, that is okay too and you can use solid food options. Egg whites would work well because again, they are one of the faster digesting sources of non-liquid proteins, as would any type of white fish.
What you'll want to stay away from is salmon and red meat (due to the fat content).
The second component then is your carbohydrates intake. With this one, try and shoot to have at least 200-300 calories worth if you are trying to build muscle. For most of you, you can even go higher with this, aiming for 100-150 grams of carbs.
This is the perfect time to really feed your body the calories as at this time, it's definitely going to make use of them, diverting them to the muscle tissue where they will be quickly converted to stored muscle glycogen, so helping to increase the performance you are then able to give during your next workout.
As for type of carbohydrates, here again you have options.
Many individuals like to go with dextrose, as it's a pure form of carbohydrates that the body can read. This is much better than adding fruit juice for example because fruit juice will be composed of 50% fructose, which does not go to the muscle cells at all, but rather, gets handled by the liver.
When it comes to your post-workout meal, you only want starch-like carbohydrates.
If you want a solid food option to eat here, try and get some fast digesting carbohydrates into the system, along with some slower digesting ones. The fast ones will immediately get into the bloodstream while the lower ones will be released over the next few hours, supplying the body with a working source of fuel to use.
So, for fast sources, consider sugary-types of cereals (Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Cornflakes, etc), glucose-based candy (ensure there is no fructose content), rice cakes, bagels or English muffins.
After this food has been consumed, then opt for a low burning source, options being unsweetened oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, whole-grain bread, or potatoes.
If you can get this combination into your system, you can be sure you are doing everything possible to support good muscle growth.
So, next time you're finishing a workout, be absolutely sure that you have taken care of your post-workout meal needs.