Some gym stereotypes refuse to die, including the ideas that lifting weights makes you bulky, that the weight room is full of grunting bros and that if you strength train, you must chug a protein shake post-workout. Just as you probably won’t bulk up from lifting and don’t need to grunt to build muscle, you don’t need to follow a cookie-cutter plan for your post-workout nutrition. It depends on the length and intensity of your workout as to when and what you will eat for your next meal.
It is okay to skip a meal right after your workout if:
1. YOUR WORKOUT WASN’T INTENSE.
A walk or yoga is good exercise, but there’s no reason to immediately down carbs and protein afterward, particularly if your goal is weight loss. “If your workouts are light-to-moderate and you aren’t engaging in muscle-building strength training, an extra post-workout meal or snack may work against you by preventing weight loss or contributing to weight gain,”says New York City- and Los Angeles-based performance nutritionist Cynthia Sass, RD.
2. YOUR WORKOUT LASTED LESS THAN AN HOUR.
“Even if you did 20 minutes of intervals, that’s hard, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not worth the calories to eat right after,” says nutritionist Mike Roussell, PhD, author of “The Meta Shred Diet.” If you are training six days a week — three days weight training and three days cardio — there’s no way you’re depleting your muscle glycogen stores in 20 minutes he says.
Do not skip a post-workout meal if:
1. YOU DID AN INTENSE, HOUR-PLUS WORKOUT.
When you’re trying to build muscle and doing continuous, vigorous strength workouts lasting more than an hour, it’s ideal to build in a post-workout meal or snack.
2. YOU’RE DOING ANOTHER HARD SESSION SOON
If you’re a two-a-days fan, post-workout fuel is key if you strength train hard and for more than an hour at a time.
Try to get post-workout nutrition if:
1. YOU FOLLOW A VEGAN DIET
“A strictly plant-based diet isn’t innately robust with amino acids and would benefit from an additional dose of complete protein after exercise to support muscle building and recovery,” Roussell says. That way you’re getting the amino acids necessary to stimulate muscle synthesis.
2. YOU’RE UNDER A LOT OF STRESS.
Exercise is a stressor, but it comes at a small enough dose that the body typically recovers. But if you are under a lot of stress outside the gym, that may become too much for your body to handle, impairing your body’s ability to perform and recover from that activity. “When under stress, what is a normal dose of exercise is too much for the body to handle,” Roussell says. “But you can use nutrition to counteract those negative effects of stress.” Follow the post-workout tips above.