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, intelligently-crafted (based on science-backed principles) and overall well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan to effetcively build muscle as a skinny guy (AKA a lifting hardgainer). When you have a great program used by other successful hardgainers that have gone before you, you can't go wrong if you simply stick with it.
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill personal trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in the classroom). No, instead, to create the best weight training and nutrition program for maximum results, you must be a little more selective in the program you choose to follow.
So, here are the 3 different paths you can take to guarantee you follow a finely-tuned, effective program that will leave nothing to chance and give you the best muscle building and strength gains of your life (again, if you simply execute and don't quit after a mere week 'cause you don't notice a change...).
See our flagship 7-step introductory guide to building muscle for beginners which covers all the basics you need to know, and guides you through designing and creating an effective program for muscle gain without getting fat. If you don't want to spend any money buying a pre-made program or finding a (good) personal trainer, and/or you're the DIY type who enjoys researching every little detail and knowing about how everything works and fits together, this is probably the path for you if you have the patience.
If you don't want to take the time to plan your own natural bodybuilding plan from scratch, following an already made, high-quality, credible program from a true expert in this field can save you a ton of time.
It can give you a great head start on your transformation journey and makes things a whole lot simpler as it's simply a matter of understanding what the program involves, how to do perform all the exercises, how to execute on the included meal plans (taking into account your own perferences as you'll want to tweak any pre-made diet plan for your own needs), and then simply executing week in and week out.
Sean Nal's popular hardgainer program is the one I currently recommend most, as it's the most complete, easy to follow program for beginners that I've seen (and I've experimented with many over the years). It's also the exact program that initially changed everything for me and I owe a fair part of my overall hardgainer success (going from 132lbs/60kg to 220lbs/100kg - mostly muscle) to being fortunate enough to having stumbled upon this program when I was struggling with gaining weight and building muscle. See my full review of Sean Nal's program here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't for everyone though as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably really consider if you have any type of serious injury though.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)