When it comes to building muscle, post workout nutrition plays a key role and can make or break results. This post-workout period of eating, the 3-5 hours immediately following your workout, is without a doubt the most important time to eat properly to build muscle.
After intense weight training your body loses vital nutrients and will act like a sponge and soak up whatever you eat quite quickly. So what you eat during this time is very important and if you eat the right foods you can greatly increase your muscle building potential and speed up your recovery.
Ok, so now you understand the importance of your post workout nutrition. Let's take a look at what you need to accomplish after your intense workout for the best muscle building results:
All this can be done by consuming two post workout meals. One protein shake taken immediately after your workout, and another whole-food meal soon after.
Post Workout Shake
The reason you should drink a protein shake straight after your workout is because your body is in a lot of stress and is starving for nutrients. You need to quickly replenish your body with the right nutrients, and a liquid meal will do this best.
Your post workout shake should contain these ingredients for the best results:
1 - 30-40 grams of whey protein.
2 - 5 grams of creatine if you are taking creatine.
3 - 5 grams of glutamine.
4 - 70-80 grams of simple sugar, eg dextrose.
All this should be mixed in water and taken as soon as possible after completing your workout (no longer than 20 minutes after). Mixing it with milk won't be as effective because it will take a little longer to digest. At any other time of the day milk would be fine for a protein shake, but during post workout nutrition you need to recover as fast as you can, so use water.
Taking a high-potency multivitamin supplement with the protein shake is also recommended.
Post Workout Meal
After taking your post workout protein shake, you should eat your second post-workout meal which will be made up of whole foods. Aim to eat this meal 45 minutes to an hour after finishing your workout.
This meal needs to contain some high quality protein and high glycemiccarbohydrates. Any quality protein source will do, so long as its a whole food. Eg: steak, chicken, tuna, fish, or eggs.
High glycemic carbohydrates are the types of carbs that break down quickly into your bloodstream. This is what you need for your second post workout meal. Some good sources for this would be potatoes, white rice, or rice cakes.
Here is an example of what your second post-workout meal could look like:
- 6oz of steak
- 1 potato
- Glass of orange juice
This meal will continue to provide your starving muscles with the nutrients they require in order to synthesize new muscle tissue and restore glycogen levels. After this second meal there is still about 2 hours or so to take advantage of as best you can.Your goal in this 3-hour window is to consume as much high quality protein and high glycemic carbohydrates as you can.
The goal of this meal is to give your body the nutrients it needs to start the muscle growth and repair process. The more quality protein and high glycemic carbohydrates you eat at this meal, the better.
The majority of guys out there trying to build muscle don't realize the importance of post workout nutrition. It can greatly accelerate your results if you do it right. But if you ignore this critical feeding time, your gains will suffer.
So to sum it all up, after your intense weight training session you should consume 2 meals. One protein shake taken immediately, and one whole food meal taken within 45-60 minutes. Following this routine will give you all the more chance to pack on massive amounts of muscle as fast as possible.
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land - information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly structured, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain Program ($)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)