It’s never been easier to get a quick bite of protein after a workout.
Between shakes and bars, it seems like there is a protein snack everywhere you turn. You’ll probably find a high-protein snack in the bag or every serious athlete at the gym. In general, this can be a good thing, but just how much protein do you need after a hard lifting session or practice?
“The right post-workout nutrition gives our muscles and body what they need to recover, rebuild, and stop muscle protein breakdown,” explains nutrition coach Kris Wilkins. “Protein is an important part of that plan.”
When you work out or practice intensely, you damage tissues on a micro-level. You also use fuel.
Ultimately, this is what makes us stronger, more fit, leaner, and more muscular. However, in the short term, it requires repair.
So, what exactly is a good post-training snack, and how much protein should be in it? Here’s what you need to know.
How much protein do you need after a workout?
“Protein is the building block of our muscles and other tissues so we need it to be there when our body starts repairing any damage from training,” says Wilkins.
As to how much protein you need, it depends on what kind of workout you were doing. If you just finished a high-intensity practice with lots of sprinting, running, or swimming, you’ll need a bit more than if you just did yoga.
In general, studies show that getting about 20-40 grams of protein after a strenuous workout is recommended.
To get more specific, research suggests that you should consume between 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight after a workout. An athlete doing more intensive training may lean toward the higher side of this recommendation.
What Protein Is Best For Athletes After A Workout?
Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles and are necessary for energy and proper bodily function. However, not all proteins are created equal. Some foods are more complete sources of protein and others don’t contain all of the amino acids your body needs.
Complete proteins naturally contain all the essential amino acids and varying amounts of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAAs are important to support muscle protein synthesis. Complete proteins include sources like animal-based products such as meat, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based products like soy.
Protein quality doesn’t only depend on the amino acid profile. How easy it is to digest and how quickly those proteins are available to our body is important.
Some proteins are more readily digested than others, and your body can generally access all of the amino acids from animal sources, such as milk. Generally speaking, animal sources of protein are more readily digested, compared to plant sources. Whey protein is a common choice.
Athletes Need Carbs With Their Protein!
While protein is pivotal, it doesn’t act alone. Carbs are also required post-workout because they help replenish your energy. Wilkins says, “Consuming 3-4 times as many grams of carbs compared to protein post-workout is a good rule of thumb.”
Your body needs fuel to repair those tissues and use the amino acids. It also needs to restore its stores for the next practice or training session.
Another benefit of adding carbs is that the combination of carbohydrates and amino acids after exercise stimulates growth hormone and testosterone. That helps you recover and rebuild faster.
What To Eat To Get Protein Post Workout
The main goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption.
This list contain examples of simple and easily digested proteins:
Animal- or plant-based protein powder
Sample Post-Workout Meals
Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:
Recovery shake with carbs and protein
Protein shake and banana.
Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
Salmon with sweet potato.
Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread.
Tuna and crackers.
Cottage cheese and fruits.
Pita and hummus.
Whole grain toast and almond butter.
Greek yogurt, berries, and granola.
Athletes Need Protein After Training
Whether a recovery drink or a whole food meal, you want to eat something within 30-60 minutes after you finish training or practice. That’s when your body needs recovery the most.
It is particularly important to eat both carbs and protein after your workout.
Nutrition at home during covid-19 stay at home actions and social distancing is much different for people. Athlete’s don’t have their normal routines or places for eating.
Watch this video with Velocity nutrition coaches and dieticians checking- in on what’s happening with people’s nutrition and sharing tips on eating smart right now.
Although this time is an unprecedented disruption to daily life for most of us, we can find ways to make 🍹lemonade out of 🍋 lemons.
One of the takeaways from this conversation is that this can be an opportunity to upgrade your nutrition at home during Covid-19. Build some new cooking skills, experiment, and help young athletes learn about nutrition and cooking.
It mostly serves us well by letting us know when there is danger, who we can trust or not trust and tells us about what we truly value.
This is where the expression “follow your gut” comes from because it can be difficult to articulate why you are having a particular emotional response in time to make a rational decision.
Luckily, we’ve been observing and processing life situations since we were born. Subconsciously, we have established a framework for how to live our lives that makes our ‘gut feelings’ useful. Happiness, sadness, anger, pride, excitement all send clear messages about what to do/not do to continue being a successful organism.
We chase ‘happiness’ in particular because it is our subconscious’ way of rewarding what it thinks is ‘productive’ behavior.
Find yummy food —> happy feeling. Get chased by bear —> not so happy feeling.
Unhappiness, Fear, Anxiety are signs that something in our environment needs to change.
The Elephant in The Room
Think of your subconscious as a big quiet elephant. We have instincts and feelings that are programmed to help us make decision that will guide us towards success.
Basic decisions we make all day, everyday promote the pillars of life which equate to success in survival terms; find food, find shelter, find a mate and reproduce.
done. Congratulations you are a successful organism.
But as humans, we also have this rational brain that gets involved too. It’s the part separating us from the rest of life on this planet which functions solely on instincts (or feelings).
Think of the rational part of your brain as the dude riding the elephant.
It’s the part of our brains that like finding logical solutions to problems. It likes using data to measure things. It likes to ensure that we feel in control of our situation at all times. It makes our elephant feel safe and stable.
After all, control = success. Right?
So here we have this super-rational little dude trying to steer and control this giant instinctual elephant.
For the most part, if we are generally heading in a direction the elephant thinks will keep it happy and alive, the rider remains in control.
If the elephant feels threatened or in danger, it becomes a lot trickier to control.
What Do You Really Want?
When our deeper values and principles match with our
environment there is harmony and equilibrium. We can maintain this for the long term.
rider tells the elephant where they are going and the elephant agrees because
it feels safe.
When the rider tries to force the elephant down a particular path, it can become a struggle between instinct and rationale.
For example, you value your family life and you also want to have a rewarding amazing career. You want a career that provides value to society, all while having the physique and stamina of Thor.
Sometimes those values and priorities conflict forcing you to make choices. Choices that your elephant fears will make you less happy, or possibly less healthy.
If you spend all your time at the gym, your family and work may suffer. If you only go to work and spend time with your family, you may find yourself less healthy than you’d like. Equally, if you constantly miss work to spend time with family and work out you may find yourself out of a job.
The weight we give each of these priorities, and how we choose to balance our responsibilities, is different for each of us and is part of what makes us unique individuals.
But what happens when the rider consistently makes decisions the elephant isn’t on board with?
In Steve’s case, rigidly restricting food choices all day every day over a long period.
For a while, the elephant may go along, but push it too hard or ignore it and may just take you for the ride of your life!
Managing The Elephant in The Fitness Equation
So now maybe you are starting to see how this relates back to Steve and breaking his plateau.
For a long time, Steve had been ignoring his elephant.
though he thought he was paying attention to his needs, his elephant was
hungry. It was tired and unsatisfied
with the path he was walking.
His subconscious set of values prioritized social time with family and friends. However, his rational brain said these are things that are contrary to his fitness goals and so they must go.
He was isolating himself from colleagues and family during the week in order to eat ‘compliant’ meals. On the weekends he was ‘binging’ on not just food but social activities as well.
He really loved good food. Yet, his rational brain was saying only bland portion-controlled food will give you results. To get where he wanted he had to control his calorie intake precisely and he couldn’t do that if he was around other people or if he enjoyed what he was eating. Because as we all know flavor = calories.
This is where our rational brain can let us down. We can create ridgid scenarios that are perfectly controlled and effective but don’t reflect reality very well.
Food variety is interesting to us because it is beneficial. Eating a narrow selection of foods can lead to longer-term nutrient deficiencies due to the limited range of foods we take in on a restrictive diet.
Color and flavor are indicative of the wide variety of nutrients our bodies need to sustain optimal health. We are wired to crave variety. It keeps us healthy and interested.
Boredom or monotony in training or nutrition will lead to non-compliance because it doesn’t feed our broader needs.
For Steve, this rigid strategy meant his rider and elephant were pulling in opposite directions.
The Missing X-Factor In Your Fitness Equation
Our rational brain likes black and white thinking. It simplifies a complex world and creates opportunity for action. Chicken good, chocolate bad is very clear and actionable.
It’s thinking, “I can’t ever go out to eat if I want to have a six-pack! When I have a beer on Saturday with my friends, the whole weekend is blown, so I might as well say screw it and let loose!”
Monday rolls around with a dose of feeling like a failure and so the rider yanks back on the reigns and tells the elephant “Enough is enough! Get back on the path! You just need more self-discipline!”
The more we repeat this pattern, the less satisfying it becomes. Then we become less compliant, finding ways to ‘cheat’ or ‘have a break’.
When we first started that new diet or training program, we could maintain it. It provided a clear path to success by simplifying the complex foodscape we live in. When it’s exciting and new, it is sustainable, but over time we find it repetitive and less exciting.
Excitement and motivation are finite but allow us to give 100% to any aspect of our training while they last. As soon as the newness is gone so are the results. In fitness we see this every January, and we watch as excitement wanes and consistency goes with it.
Whether this is in your nutrition, training or recovery. Variety is the key to satisfaction and sustaining your results.
Nutrition Tracking With A New Variable
So when I asked Steve how he felt about the meal that he was about to eat he was stumped.
His rider was the only one answering and he wasn’t talking to his elephant. “This is what I am supposed to eat to get super lean. It’s not what I want to eat. I can’t eat what I want or I will not be able to achieve my goals.” The rider thought that how his elephant felt was irrelevant and counterproductive.
In his mind, letting the elephant have control meant he would find himself in a pile of peanuts a mile deep because his elephant was an out of control animal that needed more discipline!
Rider and elephant didn’t trust each other anymore.
the first step was the hardest. It went against everything he thought would get
him where he wanted to go.
still needed to track things and assess progress, but not in the way he was used to.
I asked him to track how he felt after each meal…. With a very unscientific emoji system.
Regardless of whether they were ‘compliant’ meals or not.
😀 For a meal you enjoyed
😐 For a meal that was meh
😕 For a meal that was totally unsatisfying
What he found was his big Aha! moment!
He learned that all through the week for almost every meal he had a 😕 or a 😐
On Friday night when he let loose, he had a 😀
then Saturday morning a 🙁 because he felt guilty for being so weak willed
followed by a big 😀 on Saturday evening when he went out
And another even bigger 😠 by sunday evening when he was getting fired up to ‘get back under control’ for the week.
The pattern showed without a doubt that he had a death grip on his eating throughout the week. (success = control) When he finally let loose, he went nuts and unit he was really satisfied. (out of control = failure)
The consequences of this all or nothing approach showed up in his lack of progress.
We talked about what might happen if he didn’t feel 😕 about his meals during the week and how it might affect his weekends. We also talked about the nutrient/calorie deficit he was generating throughout the week that might have been generating some of the need to ‘cheat’ Friday-Sunday.
took a lot of courage for him to trust that adding in some satisfaction to his
daily routine would work.
He was scared that he would utterly lose control in the face of the ‘freedom’.
We took what he was already eating so he felt safe and still under control and added the most important ingredients- Flavor and Satisfaction
more eating alone at his desk while everyone else was going out to eat
We also added a few calories per day in the form of more food volume and variety, using spices and herbs to pump up his satisfaction throughout the week. This helped ensure he was getting enough nutrients to fuel his workouts and grow some muscle.
What he found changed his approach forever. He immediately found weekend outings less out of control, even though initially he went to the same places with the same people. He ate and drank less because he didn’t feel like ‘it was now or never’.
He noticed that not feeling lonely while eating increased his satisfaction at meals. So much that he even stopped eating before he finished his portions. Paying attention to his feelings of fullness and satisfaction was helping him control his calorie intake,
A Fitness Equation For Sustainable Results
You see, if you want to do something really well you, have to do it A LOT for a long time.
But what we forgot to consider is that if we don’t enjoy it, we won’t do it as often and therefore, we don’t get super good at it.
= longevity of results
Therefore, a fitness equation that only includes rational brain data
collection like this;
Training+ Nutrition+ Recovery= Results misses the elephant in the room. Pun intended..
Without satisfaction, nothing you achieve will last. Amazing results are only attained through consistent effort and consistent effort is unlikely if you are forcing yourself into doing something.
So the real fitness and health equation includes an x-factor. The satisfaction elephant. SO….. The real fitness (or Achievement) equation is:
Travel is a necessary component of competitive sports that can start as early as middle school. When you’re on the road, all the careful planning and meal prep you do at home to guarantee your body get all the nutrition it needs for optimal performance suddenly disappears. Your body already has to contend with a host of challenges that can’t be helped – jet lag, long periods of time spent sitting on planes, strange beds, etc. – so change something you can control and make sure you’re still fueling your body well.
Prepare for Success
First and foremost, plan ahead. How long is the trip? How much of that will be spent traveling? Are you likely to need food on the plane? Can you make arrangements ahead of time for healthier in-flight eating? What kind of food will you have access to wherever you’re going? Answering these questions will help you form a plan and avoid the trap of grabbing whatever is easiest because you’re hungry.
The recycled air on planes and in airports is dry and will dehydrate you faster than normal, thus requiring you to replace what you’ve lost more frequently. You can’t bring bottled water through security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle and fill it up at the bottle-fillers most airports have these days. You’ll feel better when you land and won’t feel any of the cravings that dehydration can cause.
Bring Your Own Snacks
Probably everyone who has ever traveled regularly has fallen into the trap of grabbing whatever is most convenient. Your flight might be boarding in the next two minutes, or maybe you know you’re about to be on a long flight and that bag of chips or candy bar looks like the bit of comfort you need to make it a little more tolerable.
We’re not here to say you shouldn’t ever have indulgences, but bringing your own, healthier snacks will help avoid impulsive choices that you will regret later. Below are a few nutritious options to keep you fueled and feeling good.
Fresh fruits and veggies: When you’re traveling, something you can eat with one hand is always welcome. Baby carrots and grapes fit nicely in a small plastic bag, and bananas and oranges come in their own container!
Almonds: Pack them easily into a small container for a protein-packed snack.
Pre-Packaged Single-Serving Options: These days there are plenty of snacks already packaged into a convenient travel size. Hummus cups go great with your baby carrots, and single-serving peanut or almond butter makes a nice addition to your banana or apple slices.
Make Your Own Protein Bars: A quick internet search will turn up far more recipes for protein bars than you will ever need. Make them in bar form or roll them into balls for a handy, nutritious snack.
All you need is a little planning and you’ll never have to wonder how you’re going to avoid hunger on the go again.
Food is what fuels your human machine. Choosing the right kind of fuel can go a long way towards optimizing your performance. This article focuses on things to avoid before your workout.
Too much protein
Protein is, of course, an important part of any athlete’s diet. Getting the right timing around your workout is important. Too much of it before a workout or a game can leave you feeling too full or lethargic – neither of which you want.
Fried and Fatty Foods
Any food with a lot of saturated fat should be avoided. This type of fat molecule takes a long time for your body to digest. It stays in your digestive system longer, and can lead to bloating, cramping, or diarrhea.
Foods high in fiber
Even though your doctor might want you to up your fiber intake, don’t do it pre-workout. Doing so right before you want to break a sweat might have some unpleasant consequences. Fiber certainly gets the digestive system moving, but you don’t want that during a hard training session.
There’s a lot more to be said about nutrition before, during, and after training or competition. Check back for more in the future, and if the topic interests you, start researching!
Athletes of all ages ask us this question all the time at Velocity. Simply put, protein is what is going to make you stronger. A body that is getting sufficient amounts of protein is able to effectively grow and repair lean muscle mass. Without enough protein, your muscles will struggle to repair themselves after your workouts.
“That sounds great! I definitely want to get stronger and recover fast, so what foods should I eat to get my protein?”
Animal sources like chicken, fish, and beef are great options. Animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which are the actual components responsible for the growth and repair of your body’s muscles, bones, and tissues. Remember, milk and eggs come from animals, so they are also excellent options for a protein-rich diet. Try your best to choose animal protein options that are lower in fat, such as skinless chicken rather than fried chicken.
If animal proteins aren’t your thing (I’m looking at you, vegetarians and vegans), consider pairs of foods such as beans with rice, or nut butters with wheat bread. The beans or nut butters have proteins, but only when paired with the rice and bread, respectively, do they contain all nine essential amino acids.
“OK, that’s very helpful. But what if I’m a really picky eater? Are there any other ways to be sure that I’m getting enough protein?”
Many athletes include protein supplements in their daily diet. High quality whey proteins are the best option for athletes – particularly people without food allergies. Whey is a protein extracted during milk production, it belongs in the “animal proteins” category that we previously discussed. Check the labels and look for things like BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids) and glutamine. If you’re lactose-intolerant, try to choose a hydrolyzed whey protein. These have already been broken down into their simplest forms, so they won’t cause digestive issues, and they will also be absorbed into your body more quickly. Vegetarians and vegans should look for plant-based protein supplements containing hemp and pea proteins. These contain ample amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
“Thanks, Coach! One last question before I head to the store to get my protein: How much should I be taking each day?”
Every athlete is different, but a simple beginner’s rule to follow is to get 25-30 grams of protein five times per day. More specifically, someone who wants 150 pounds of lean muscle mass (such as a very fit and lean 170-pound athlete) should be eating approximately 150 grams of protein each day. It can sometimes be difficult to get this much protein into your daily diet, so using both foods and supplements throughout the day is recommended. Also, always try to get 25-30 grams of protein shortly after every workout because this is when your body is most receptive to the benefits that proteins provide.
No matter the season, it is important for athletes to stay hydrated in order to perform at their highest level.
However, during the warmer months, dehydration is a very serious topic for not only athlete performance, but general safety and well-being. As the temperature goes up, so too does athlete perspiration.
When an athlete sweats, they lose electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. When an athlete depletes their body of fluids and electrolytes without replenishing them, they put themselves in grave danger.
Here are four dehydration warning signs athletes should take seriously:
Dark Colored Urine With Strong Odor
This is one of the easiest ways to catch dehydration at an early stage. If an athlete’s urine is dark yellow it is a good time to start drinking some water and stop the problem before it even starts.
Prolonged Weight Loss During Exercise
Weight loss of 2% or more during a training session is a good indicator of dehydration.That would be approximately 2.5-pounds of weight lost for an athlete weighing 125 pounds. Weight loss during exercise is not fat loss — so stay hydrated before, during and after training and bring plenty of fluids to games and practices.
Muscle cramps can be another of the warning signs of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Consuming a sports drink like Gatorade during exercise bouts longer than four hours or when under extreme heat conditions can help prevent muscle cramps.This does not mean an athlete needs a sports drink for one hour of exercise — water would be much more beneficial to them than Gatorade.
Dizziness, Nausea and Fatigue
If an athlete is experiencing dizziness, nausea and fatigue, it is important to immediately begin consuming water or a sports drink and rest.Also, it is important to avoid caffeine, as caffeine will increase urine output.
When you recognize any of these four dehydration warning signs, tell a coach or parent and begin hydrating immediately. Have fun and be safe this summer during your training sessions.