For the last installment of this nutrition series, we will delve a little deeper into protein and fat consumption.
I briefly went over some guidelines for meals post workout and how studies are showing the benefits of 20 grams of whey protein consumed prior to exercise. However, we should talk in more detail about protein consumption and why it is also important to pay attention to fat consumption around your workout times.
Protein is the building block of muscle (or more specifically the amino acids that protein is broken down into). Without protein from food, we cannot build muscle.
The question as to how much protein an athlete needs is always a popular topic, and again it can and will vary from person to person.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to consume between .75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, for a 150 lb person, this roughly translates to 112 to 150 grams of protein per day. You want about ¼ to 1/3 of that amount to be right after your workout so that your body has an ample amount to repair the muscle damaged from exercise.
Side note- I have used that phrase many times “muscle damaged from exercise” assuming readers understand how exercise and muscle growth work. To explain and put it very simply, muscle is broken down when we put it under tension (lifting the weights) and small micro tears occur. The body recognizes the damage done, and repairs it to be bigger and stronger so that it won’t happen again. But it does happen again- we keep challenging the muscle so that it will KEEP getting bigger and stronger. Anyways, back to protein: you need to make sure you have enough so your body can repair, build, and grow.
As far as consuming the rest of your protein- spread it out throughout the day in the way that is the most realistic for you. I am not going to go crazy with the nutrient timing topic because that could be a whole bunch of posts in and of itself, and it’s also usually very person specific. However, the rules I have given so far pertain to most athletes across the board.
The last thing we will discuss is fat consumption. This can break a person’s workout and impact growth for a couple of reasons.
The first is very simple- consuming fat around your workout can cause some serious gastrointestinal distress (read running to the bathroom coming out one end or the other).
When we exercise blood is diverted from our stomachs and intestines to our heart, lungs, and extremities to aid in movement and oxygen flow. When that blood is diverted, if we have food in our stomachs and intestines digestion is slowed down, or the opposite- evacuated. So, watch how much fat you have prior to exercise- avoid anything more than 10 to 15 grams an hour beforehand, and if you have a sensitive stomach, go 2 hours out.
The second reason fat consumption can interfere with your workout/growth because of how fat is processed. It takes longer for our system to break down foods with fat in it. Remember I mentioned that “window of gains” – your best time to consume protein and carbs for ideal growth is within 60 minutes of exercise?
Adding too much fat to your diet for your post workout meal will slow down the processing of carbs and protein- and those are your bodies priority macronutrients at the moment. I recommend limiting your post-workout meal to no more than 30 grams of fat to ensure everything is processed quickly. **This recommendation is for the athlete that uses carbs as fuel- if you are a keto/fat adapted athlete then yes eat your fat post workout!
As your understanding of fuel sources and nutrition expands, you will be exposed to many different diets, thought processes, recommendations, and ideas.
You will learn how your body works, what you like the best, what’s the easiest for you, and what makes you perform and recover the best.
There are a ton of apps out there that can help you learn how to track what you are eating- a very popular one is My Fitness Pal. I also strongly encourage everyone as they begin their nutrition journey to get into the habit of reading the backs of labels and know what they are consuming. This will not only make you a better athlete because you will know what you are eating but it will also help make you a more informed consumer!