Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Post-Workout Nutrition - minimize damage, or maximize results?

I was talking to someone a few weeks back about drinking beer. I turned one down, because it was a workout day and I didn't want to have a beer post-workout. This person said "Why not? That's the best time to have it."

There seems to be two schools of thought about post-workout nutrition. Heck, one school of thought doesn't even think of it as post-workout nutrition, really. Here is how I see them, and yes, I'm blatantly simplifying and generalizing. I recognize there are more reasons, more shades of gray, and that these exist on a continuum rather than present a black or white / yes or no / 0 or 1 choice.

The maximize results school of thought says that post-workout nutrition - what you eat right after and shortly after the workout - is critical to progress. You don't want to miss even the tiniest benefit of your workout, so what you eat afterward is geared to maximizing the workout. Protein, simple carbohydrates to replenish your body's stores of glyocogen (a vital fuel source), and avoiding anything that might damage your progress are hallmarks of this line of thought. Typical foods are protein powders, fruit, workout drinks, chicken breasts, rice, pasta, etc.

The minimize damage from cheat foods school of thought says that right after you workout is the best time to eat foods that ordinarily don't fit your diet. Going to have a beer, a chocolate cake, a bag of chips? Have it after your workout, when your body is already burning calories and can best handle sub-optimal foods. Typical foods here are anything you'd consider breaking your diet, whatever it may be.

I pretty much fit into the first school of thought. I work out hard, and I look at every workout as a step towards a goal. I don't want to waste a step or slow down my stride. I notice that some people I know who are dieting for weight loss, rather than training for an athletic goal, tend to fit more in the second school of thought. I'm going to have a Twinkie anyway, so I may as well have it post-workout when it's least damaging.

I can understand the second school of thought intellectually, but in my heart I find myself pulled into the first line of thinking. I tell myself, next workout I'll have chocolate care and a beer with dinner, or the workout after that I'll break down and have a peanut butter cup. But workout after workout, it's perpetually "next time" and this time I down a protein shake and then have a weighed-out and carefully constructed meal to maximize my results. Where do you fit on this? Which school, and why? Am I missing anything in my so-called "definitions" above?

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