Updated: Jul 14
Ultimately, what you eat after you work out will remain fairly similar regardless of your goal.
One of the main differences of course is the volume and total Calories. The amount you consume and the number of calories will vary depending on if you are in a weight loss, maintenance or weight/strength gain phase.
A little background on calories here will be useful, so an explanation below for each phase as mentioned above:
WHAT IS WEIGHT LOSS?
When in a weight loss phase you are essentially putting your body into a calorie deficit each day with the aim of losing weight over an extended period of time. In simple terms, a calorie deficit is where you consume fewer calories than you burn each day.
You would first work out the calories you require for this goal and from this track your calories in MyFitnessPal for example via logging the food/drink you consume. This will add up your carbohydrate, protein and fat which will equal a number of calories. Burn MORE than you CONSUME and you're winning!
WHAT IS MAINTENANCE?
Say you are happy with your current weight/physique and there is no need to lose/gain you are essentially in a maintenance phase. This is where you are simply trying to maintain the weight you are at.
This is where your calorie intake is equal to your calorie output. So as long as you are consuming the same amount of calories as your body is burning on a daily basis then you will maintain your current weight.
Calorie intake is trackable via an App like MyFitnessPal as mentioned above. As for calories out/burnt we can track and monitor this using fitness devices such as an Apple Watch, FitBit or Garmin to name a few!
WHAT IS WEIGHT GAIN?
The opposite of weight loss, this is where you are actively putting your body through a phase in which the aim is to gain weight/muscle. The term for this is a calorie surplus. This is where you consume more calories than you burn.
In this phase your calories will be quite high dependant on how fast you want to put weight/muscle on, meaning the surplus can be lower or higher based on goals.
For example if you eat 3,000 calories a day and burn 2,500 you have created a surplus of 500. This can be adjusted as necessary to put weight on at a slower/faster rate.
An interesting fact before we move onto example meals and why they are important…
If you put yourself into an additional 500 calorie surplus each day for 7 days (3,500 per week) this is equal to 1 pound in bodyweight, so that is what you would GAIN on a weekly basis the same is said for a weight loss phase. If you are in a 500 calorie deficit each day for 7 days, you would LOSE 1 pound per week and so on!
GREAT, BUT WHY IS FOOD SO IMPORTANT?
POST exercise your body is going to be craving energy/nutrients to replenish what it has lost during training. Essentially it goes into a catabolic state where it starts to breakdown muscle for energy. We do not want this, so a proper post workout meal can help kick your body into an anabolic state which is where it BUILDS muscle.
Getting a meal/shake in after training as well as hitting your calorie/protein goal for the day also means the body will recover well and faster than it would otherwise.
It is likely post-workout that your glycogen stores are depleted, they need to be restored via carbohydrates. The type of carb here though is important, we do not want complex carbs we need something fast acting and simple such as simple sugars, fruit, white rice, potato etc.
In terms of fat, you probably want to avoid them here or keep them very low. The reason being is that fat is slow digesting, you need everything to digest and get to your muscle as quickly as possible.
Protein… your body needs this in order to repair your muscle tissue. It can be consumed via food or in powder form such as a protein shake (when the goal is fast digestion, liquid form is usually best).
In summary you want your post-workout meal to be fast acting, have quick digesting protein, simple carbohydrates and a low fat content for maximum results.
EXAMPLE POST-WORKOUT MEALS FOR A WEIGHT LOSS PHASE
Scoop of Protein (Whey or a plant based derivative)
Low Fat Milk OR a plant based alternative such as Almond, Coconut etc.
Honey or a form of simple sugary carbohydrate (keep amount LOW)
A simple, quick and easy way of getting what you need in post workout!
Scoop of protein (Whey or a plant based derivative)
Low Fat Milk OR a plant based alternative such as Almond, Coconut etc.
Fruit (Banana, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry is a great choice here)
Blend together and you have a delicious way of getting your fruit in too and utilising their many health benefits!
A 30-50g bowl of your favourite cereal
Scoop of protein mixed with your milk choice poured over the top!
Simple, low fat and a great way of eating a food you enjoy (who doesn’t like cereal!).
CHICKEN AND RICE
X1 Chicken Breast (or a lean equivalent meat/alternative)
Freshly cooked or packet rice (Basmati for example)
Broccoli or a small volume of vegetables (micro nutrients)
A simple high protein, fast acting meal and pretty tasty too. Can add a low fat sauce if essential.
EXAMPLE POST-WORKOUT MEALS FOR A WEIGHT GAIN PHASE
PROTEIN SHAKE- (READ MORE)
Scoop of protein (Whey or plant based derivative)
Full Fat Milk or a plant based alternative such as Almond, Coconut etc.
Honey or equivalent for simple sugars and extra calories
Additional scoop of Oats or Maltodextrin (extra carbs and calories)
Here we add a full fat milk for calories and additional carbohydrates as well.
A large bowl of cereal
Scoop of protein mixed with full fat milk and poured on top.
The portion would be larger than that of weight loss, with full fat milk for calories.
GREEK YOGURT, PROTEIN AND FRUIT
Bowl of Greek yogurt, mixed with protein powder (try and keep to a lower fat yogurt)
Choice of fruit (Banana and Strawberry for example)
Low-sugar Granola (sprinkle/mix a handful in for extra carbs and calories)
Top with honey or equivalent
Delicious, low fat and nutritious calorie dense meal for after a tough session!
HIGH PROTEIN SANDWICH/WRAP
Source of protein (Chicken breast for example)
2-4 slices of bread (Can be white or 50/50 for example)
Leafy greens (Spinach, rocket, lettuce etc)
Can add some type of low fat sauce (Ketchup, sweet chill etc)
Tasty and most importantly high in carbs, protein and calories!
As you can see from this blog, the meals are pretty similar but you can manipulate the quantity/ingredients based on your specific goals.
When losing weight your portion size and volume will likely be less and when gaining muscle mass your calories and therefore volume will be higher so your post-workout meal can be larger.
REMEMBER though that you still must stay within your calorie target in each phase to ensure you either lose weight or gain weight. If you go over in a deficit, you will have a hard time losing and equally if you undereat in a gaining phase you will be spinning the wheels and not really getting anywhere.
For some additional meal ideas please make sure you stay up to date by checking out our monthly recipe books available on the Portside website. Please give us feedback if this blog has helped you and shed some light on what to eat for your goals!
As Personal Trainers our aim is to help you make better choices when it comes to food. We do this by providing the information you need as well as the accountability when it comes to actually preparing and eating the food you need to reach your goals!
Don't forget you can download our recipe packs by clicking this link.
If you're in Brighton, Hove or Portslade you can book a free trial session with one of our Personal Trainers. What are you waiting for? Come and visit us at our Private Portside PT Studio on the water at Shoreham Port! We're on the Hove end of the port with free parking so even if you're a bit further out or in Brighton then we've got you covered!