Are you eating the right foods in the right quantities post-workout to get the best recovery your body needs?
Let’s explore what happens in your body during and after a WOD. What you decide to put into your body has a direct impact on your success. We commonly hear about the positive effect of protein post workout, but that still leaves some questions. What sorts of protein? How much? Is that all we need? No, it is not all we need, but it is a good start!
Nutrition is all about science and feelings! Everybody has different deficiencies, unique composition, and a unique metabolism. You’ll need fat, carbs and protein to sustain a healthy athlete body in the long term. Post workout, we focus on protein and carbohydrates for recovery.
Energy Consumption During A WOD
Before determining how much you should be eating, you need to determine how much you are burning. These numbers are not set in stone and should be used as a minimum guideline. Whatever you expend should be replenished.
CrossFit-style WODs are usually a combination of what we would call resistance training and high-intensity interval training. The duration of a WOD along with the components within the WOD is always changing, so the amount of work done varies. However, since most WODs are “all out” efforts, we estimate an average of 12 calories burned every minute WODding for women and 21 for men. This is based on the 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin, which examined the effectiveness of two classic CrossFit WODs, Donkey Kong and Fran on their lacrosse athletes.
With a little math, you can figure out how many calories of energy you burned in a single WOD. Add on more for strength training to get a more balanced idea. Also, note that the time you spent warming up and recovering in the corner doesn’t count! Just the actual WOD time.
Let’s say your WOD burned about 100 calories and you did 5x5 on a 75%RM back squat. Add another 100 to 150 calories to your total. A smaller person with a lighter squat would burn less, and a heavier person with more weight would burn more.
This gives us the base of what we need to cover in the nutrition.
Post WOD EPOC
EPOC is the Excess Post-workout Oxygen Consumption, commonly called the after-burn. After low-intensity workouts, you continue to burn calories, but at a very low rate, for a short period of time. HIIT workouts are at the top of the list with the most calories used up in the after-burn.
That means you really do use up those extra cheat calories you feel your tough workout warranted. That also means you need to consider this when you have your post workout meal and are calculating the minimum requirements to recover rapidly and completely.
Timing of Nutrition
The ideal time to consume your recovery meal will be within 20 minutes of the completion of the WOD. During this time, the body is primed to absorb and use up calories and nutrients. Eat sooner than later! If you cannot find the time to eat immediately, come prepared with post-workout snacks, meals or supplement.
This is where high-quality supplements can make all the difference. If you cannot find the time to cook a chicken breast or eggs within 20 minutes of your WOD, grab a solid, clean, high-quality protein/ carbohydrate supplement to help you out. An example is using Whey-Pro 5 and Glyco-Muscle Fueler to give your body the protein and carbohydrates it needs for post-WOD recovery.
Protein In The Post-Workout Phase
Protein is the building blocks of tissue repair. When you eat protein, it has a profile of amino acids. It is these various amino acids that we actually use to build, heal and repair muscle and other connective tissue. The best thing is that consuming protein encourages and stimulates muscle growth.
Certain proteins are ideal for a post workout because they digest and absorb faster than others. These include:
- Whey protein
- Casein Protein Supplement
- A Glass of Milk
Based on the Crossfit workout you just did, your post workout meal should contain mostly fast-absorbing proteins. Daily, as an active person, you need 1.2-1.5g protein per kg bodyweight. Broken into 5 meals per day, that is 65 to 84 grams per day for a 125lb person or 108 to 135 grams for a 200lb person. That means you’ll need anywhere from 13 to 27 grams of protein in each meal!
If you can get this protein in the post workout meal, you are on the right track! If you find that you are not consuming enough protein daily, it will be difficult to recover and stimulate muscle growth.
Carbs In The Post-Workout PhaseCarbohydrates are absolutely essential to recovery, even though we don’t hear that much about them being good. Carbs, which become glucose in the body, is the main source of energy for all high-intensity work we do. During recovery, the body works to replenish the energy used during the WOD. By consuming carbohydrates post-WOD, we support the body to replenish used energy faster and get muscle repair and growth underway quickly. You’ll need to replenish the energy you lost through the WOD with quick absorbing foods to maximize your recovery. Here are a few examples:
- Sweet Potato
- Beans / Lentils
- White Potato
- Bread / Bagels
- Brown Rice
- Fruits like Grapes, Bananas, Apples, etc.
(If you don’t have food ready, a carb supplement like Glyco-Muscle Fueler is a good substitute)
How much of these do you need to make up for a workout?
Putting It All Together
A single gram of protein and carbohydrate each contains 4 calories. If half your total post-workout calories come from protein and the other half from carbohydrates, you’ll be off to a good start and will notice a huge improvement in your recovery.
Below are two examples you can follow to help get you started setting up a post-WOD recovery meal.125lb Woman Post-WOD Nutritional Requirements:
- You are a 125lb/57kg person.
- You train for 20 minutes doing squats, then 18 minutes of a WOD
- Working flat out, you estimate you burned: 12 calories per minute, or 240kcal, plus about 216kcal from the squats.
You need 456kcal immediately post-WOD!
200lb Man Post-WOD Nutritional Requirements:
- You are a 200lb/90kg person.
- You train for 20 minutes doing squats, then 18 minutes of a WOD
- Working flat out, you estimate you burned: 21 calories per minute, or 420kcal, plus about 378kcal from the squats.
You need 798kcal immediately post-WOD!With a little math, you can calculate what you should consume in your post-WOD meal. Below is an example for a 125lb woman who should consume roughly 456kcal post-WOD.
- At 125lb/57kg, the daily protein intake should be around 76 grams of protein daily or 15 grams per meal.
- For this example, the post-WOD meal should consist of atleas15 grams of protein or 60 calories from protein.
- That leaves 396 calories that can come from carbs or 99 grams of carbohydrates.
- Keep in mind if you consume fats in your recovery meal, they will count toward the total calories needed post-WOD
Split your ratio of protein to carbs as you like, but try to respect the minimum daily protein numbers to get the best results. Let’s say you eat 36 grams of protein (146kcal), you only need 310kcal to come from carbohydrates.
Finally, at the worst, the split would be half and half. If you are trying to make gains, getting more energy back into your system is more important than consuming excess protein.