Fueling Myth #1: You need to eat within 20-60 minutes post-workout

Ben Greenfield is an expert in sports nutrition, a health and fitness blogger and podcaster, and a personal trainer and triathlon coach. He will be sharing a series of nutrition myths on ICA to answer some of your and your students’ questions.This is the first in a series of nutrition fueling myths from Ben Greenfield, health and fitness blogger at http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com. Make sure to listen to the podcast he refers to at the end of this article – it will expand on this subject with far more detail.

Fueling Myth 1: You need to eat within 20-60 minutes post-workout.

It’s likely that you’ve seen somewhere the legend of a mystical, magical fueling window. From exercise books, magazine articles and websites to nearly every resource that exists on sports nutrition, you’ll commonly read that “after you finish a workout, you have 20-60 minutes to replace precious energy by consuming a mix carbohydrates and proteins”.

Here’s what they don’t tell you:

In every study or experiment that has investigated the benefit of immediate post-workout nutrition replacement, subjects were fed after completing an exercise session that they had performed in a fasted or semi-starves state.

In other words, of course you’re going to benefit if you eat a meal after a workout in which you were completely depleted of energy! But how many of us actually roll out of bed in the morning, hop on a bicycle, and ride hard for 90 minutes to 2 hours with absolutely no fuel? In most cases, this would unpleasant, difficult and not a standard workout protocol.

So here’s the deal: if you’ve had a pre-workout meal, or any other recent meal, there’s not a crucial need to eat after your workout – especially if you’re still “burping up” that bar you ate before your exercise session. This is especially true if you have no other workouts planned for the day, since your body is able to totally replenish energy levels within 8 hours of normal eating when you’re hungry.

But it does make sense to fuel within that 20-60 minute window if you A) haven’t had anything to eat before your workout and you’re in a totally energy depleted state (such as an early morning hard session) and/or B) you’re going to be working out again within the next 8 hours. In such a case, grab a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein, such as a banana smoothie with a  scoop of protein powder, and you’ll  be set.

If you really want to geek out on the nitty-gritty, scientific details of this discussion, then you should check out the free Rock Star Triathlete Academy article “Putting the Pre & Post Workout Nutrition Debate Into The Grave” and also listen to in Podcast Episode #73 of David Warden’s Tri-Talk.

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