Down and Dirty on Post-Workout Nutrition

By shannon
In February 11, 2013

by Coach Harry Palley


Proper post-workout nutrition makes a huge difference on your ability to recover, improve, and get to your goals faster. The goal of the post-workout meal is twofold: to repair muscle tissue, and to restore muscle glycogen.

When we workout, we create micro-tears in our muscle tissue. The macronutrient we need to repair these muscle tissue is protein. And there is no substitute for that. We need protein in our post-workout nutrition regardless of age or gender.

Also when we workout, we utilize our body’s most powerful fuel source, muscle glycogen. Muscle glycogen is stored carbohydrate in the body. Post-workout, when we have used a good portion (if not all) of our stored muscle glycogen, we want to include carbohydrates in the meal to bring those levels back up.

Now every athlete is different, so use the following as rough guidelines to get started. Take notes on how you feel and how you perform, and fine tune from there.


Protein and Carbohydrate Quantity –

Protein – Between 20-40 grams post-workout. 20g leans towards our smaller athletes, where 40g leans towards our larger. This window is a safe spot to work in, and when in doubt, round UP. Try not to exceed 40g post-workout, but I’d much rather see you get a little bit extra here, than not enough. Not enough is where we see problems in recovery.

Carbohydrate – Vary this amount with your workout. The longer the met-con, the more muscle glycogen we deplete. Here are some examples to get us started:

Just strength – Example: Deadlift 3-3-3-3-3               0g Carbohydrates needed

Short met-con – Between 3-6 minutes                           10-30g Carbohydrates

Medium met-con – Between 6-12 minutes                    20-40g Carbohydrates

Long met-con – Between 12-20 minutes                       30-50g Carbohydrates

Super long (think Murph) – 20+ minutes                     40-60g Carbohydrates


Protein and Carbohydrate Quality –

Protein – It’s OK here to get away from whole foods, and go with a protein shake. If you’d like to stick with a very strict Paleo approach, good on you, and seek out low-fat animal protein sources such as egg whites, chicken breast, or fish. If you choose this route, aim for roughly 3-5oz of lean meat to hit that 20-40g goal of protein.

For those who would have a hard time putting down chicken breasts post-workout, we recommend  a protein shake. Supplement companies rant and rave on how their protein is the best and the brightest, but the truth is that any whey protein is do the job. We choose whey protein powder over others (such as casein powder), because whey digests the fastest. Remember that in our post-workout meal, we want to get those essential nutrients in ASAP. If this is your choice, read the back of the label which will inform you of how much protein is in each scoop.

Carbohydrate – Some added flexibility with your choices here, with the goal of choosing a starchy carbohydrate post-workout. Two well-rounded choices are bananas or sweet potatoes. For reference:

A medium sized banana is roughly 25g carbohydrates.

For sweet potatoes, a medium sized baked sweet potato (about 4oz) is 25g carbohydrates.

I recommend sweet potatoes over fruit post-workout. A quick down and dirty explanation is because sweet potatoes are faster in converting to muscle glycogen. Sweet potatoes are dense in “glucose”, which translates faster than fruit’s “fructose”.

Try slicing your sweet potatoes into ½ inch slices, top them with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.


Post-Workout Nutrition Applied –

Now let’s put this info into real-world WOD’s, to visualize a few examples:


Mary on Workout A:

Back Squat – Work up to a heavy set of 5
Worked up to 155lbs

Followed by “Fran”, 21-15-9 of Thrusters(95/65), Pullups
Time: 5:45

This athlete post-workout is shooting for 20g protein, and 25g carbs. She chooses: 1 scoop of whey protein powder along with 1 medium sized banana.


Tim on Workout B:

“Angie” – 100 Pullups, 100 Pushups, 100 Situps, 100 Squats
Time: 16:20

Tim is looking for 30g protein, and 40g carbs. He chooses 1.5 scoops of whey protein, and about 8oz of baked sweet potato.


Final Notes­ –

1.  Your body is a sponge post-workout, and is craving the nutrients we are giving it here. Protein and carbohydrate utilization is greatly increased because of the state it is in after we hit a hard WOD. If these high carbohydrate recommendations surprise you, know that the negative effects of a high carb meal are greatly diminished in this window.

2.  Minimize fat post-workout! Fat is great throughout the day, as it slows the digestion of food (keeps you full longer, and is a great fuel source). However, in the post-workout window, we want those proteins and carbohydrates to digest into the body ASAP, expediting our recovery.

3.  Pre-plan. Bring your post-workout meal to the gym, and enjoy it on your way home, or as you roll out on a foam roller post-workout. Goal is to have this meal within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.

4.  Have a well-balanced meal 1-2 hours later, rich in protein and fat.

As always, reach me at my email ( with any questions you may have. These are some examples of where to start – but not where to end. Take  note of how you recover and feel throughout the day, and we’ll fine tune from there.



Ready to get started?

Visit our gym today, talk to a coach, try a free class & change your life!

Brands We Support