Okay guys, so you’ve just trained like Rocky Balboa…but what’s next to maximise muscle gain ?
What’s the best post workout approach to get the most benefit from your weight training efforts in the gym?
(Because what you do in the next 24 hours are equally, if not, more important than your tough workout).
Proper rest and nutrition are crucial for developing a lean, athletic physique – and maintaining optimal health.
There’s no point in busting your balls in the gym if you don’t give your body what it needs to properly repair said balls…!
In this article I’ll share my post-workout Five Step Strategy for capitalising on your training efforts, building muscle and stripping away fat.
One of those strategies used to involve drinking a whey protein shake with milk or water straight after my workout. I don’t do that anymore…
Because I got sick of it making me feel sick. I’d feel bloated, crappy and it would just sit in my stomach.
I’d also let out toxic farts that could melt your eyeballs.
I’m not the only one. You only have to jump onto most fitness forums to hear similar complaints from other people drinking these shakes.
The processing of whey protein and the additives and chemicals included can make some of these supplements difficult to digest and absorb, particularly for people who are lactose intolerant or have food sensitivities.
After too many years of drinking whey protein shakes and experiencing horrible constipation / diarrhoea / all round digestive discomfort, I switched to organic plant-based protein powders.
Problem solved. No more dodgy stomach. No more atomic bombs coming from my rear.
But enough of the toilet talk. Back to the strategies I use these days once I step out of the gym.
#1 Fast assimilating protein after training
A tough weights session will kickstart hypertrophy – the muscle building process. But that’s only half the job.
Your body is also screaming out for protein and other nutrients to help repair muscle fibres damaged during training and to grow and develop them further.
Whey in its purest form has been described by health and fitness industry experts as the number one protein source for building muscle. Problem is, as described above, it can be hard for the body to properly break down and absorb.
I switched to plant-based protein powders 5-6 years ago, which are made from the likes of brown rice, peas and hemp. I usually drink a chocolate flavoured ‘vegan blend’ shake around 30 mins after my workout.
While many people will argue plant-based protein is second rate to whey protein, they are highly absorbable by the body – and much kinder to your insides.
No bloating, stomach cramps, feeling sick etc.
#2 Two hour window – a nutritious meal 1 hour later
The two-hour period after your last rep in the gym is prime time for supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to develop muscle.
With the plant-based protein shake gulped down and easily digested, there’s room for a healthy nutritious meal around an hour later. Salmon, green veggies and sweet potato is favourite of mine.
Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet and one of the world’s leading authorities on sports nutrition, refers to this post-workout period as the “window of opportunity” for muscle building and proper recovery.
Ori’s specially formulated “Warrior Whey” is the only whey protein I would buy – but it’s pretty expensive.
Are you looking to build muscle – and lose excess fat? You should check out this awesome interview with Ori by American’s fitness guru Chad Waterbury, titled “The Truth About Post Workout Nutrition”.
#3 Get to bed early
The hard work may be done in the gym, but muscle is really built in bed.
Sleep is crucial to the muscle building process as this is when the body sets to work on repairing the tiny muscle fibres damaged during training.
It’s also when the body manufactures more of the anabolic hormones testosterone and growth hormone, which are the key players involved in muscle tissue growth and remodelling.
Studies have shown that poor sleep can significantly lower testosterone production. This one from Penev et al involving a group of elderly men showed that the guys who had 4 hours sleep produced half as much testosterone as those who got 8 hours’ shut eye.
During deep sleep the brain sends a signal to your balls to start making more testosterone for the day ahead.
This is a process you don’t want to disturb by staying up late pissing about on Facebook or watching reality TV shows till stupid o’clock.
#4 Improve rest and recovery with ZMA or magnesium oil
While we’re on the subject of testosterone and anabolic hormones…
I’d recommend taking the natural supplements ZMA or magnesium oil after your workouts.
ZMA is a combination of the minerals zinc and magnesium, and vitamin B6, and has been clinically proven to increase anabolic hormone levels and muscle strength in athletes.
Supplementing with magnesium oil is hugely beneficial for people lifting weights and other athletes because it relaxes and soothes sore muscles, speeding up recovery times following tough workouts.
It’s also an amazing aid for a deep, restful sleep as it calms the nervous system by inhibiting cortisol and adrenaline (two major stress hormones).
#5 Make a good breakfast choice the following morning
Your body’s still in the recovery phase for 36, 48 or even more hours after a workout, depending on the intensity and strain on the muscles.
There’s little point in you busting a gut in the gym if you’re going to swing by McDonald’s the following morning for some pancakes and syrup.
Really capitalise on your blood, sweat, tears and snot by making your first meal of the next day a complete winner – a good mix of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats, and crammed with vitamins and minerals.
I usually opt for a healthy shake with plenty of calories to support muscle gain. My favourite shake recipes are in this article – The Secret To Getting In Enough Calories To Build Muscle.
Don’t fancy a shake for breakfast? This article on the Men’s Fitness website has some tasty recipes to get stuck into: http://www.mensfitness.com/topics/breakfast-recipes
Remember, what you do once you step out of the gym is equally important as what you do inside it.
>> Get some fast assimilating protein, such as brown rice or ‘vegan blend’ protein powder, in you within an 30-60 mins of your workout.
>> Follow that up with a healthy meal within the two hour “window of opportunity”.
>> Get to bed at a reasonable time and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep.
>> Not been sleeping well? ZMA and magnesium oil may be the dream solution for you.
>> Make your first meal of the following day one that’s fit for a (health conscious) king.