Do you actually know how important it is to eat after a workout? To be fair, this is a question that comes up so often, yet there are a lot of misconceptions about it’s actual truth.
The reality is that eating after a workout isn’t the magic pill that the fitness industry would like us to believe. It takes more work than that. You can’t just eat right after a workout and expect to magically get into shape.
The claim is that eating within an hour after working out is the best way to make sure your muscles are fed. This in turn jumpstarts your metabolism and burns fat while building muscle.
Unfortunately, these claims are misleading. Why? Because you cannot burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Shocking, I know. But the sooner you realize the concepts we will cover in this article, the sooner you will get in shape.
Let’s dig a little deeper to find out why it isn’t supremely important to eat after a workout.
Caloric state is more important than eating after a workout
Caloric state is the most important thing that you will need to focus on to hit your goals. What is a caloric state? This is the number of calories your body consumes averaged over time.
So, if you are trying to lose weight, you want to be at a caloric deficit. If you want to gain weight, you want to be at a caloric surplus. This is something that needs to be consistent overtime. Not just a few days per week.
But what is the benchmark that we base our caloric surpluses and deficits on? It is called your maintenance calories. This is the number of calories that you need to consume in order to not lose weight or gain weight.
You can learn to calculate your maintenance calories here.
It is important to note that you are going to have a different maintenance calorie number than me. This is why I always stress to people to take the time to calculate their maintenance calorie number. Everyone on earth has different maintenance calorie numbers.
Now you can see why I feel that caloric state is so important. Well, it’s not just something I feel. This is actual science here. If your body is in a constant state of caloric surplus, it’s not going to matter whether or not you eat directly after your workout. You will build muscle anyways.
If you are in a caloric deficit, of course it won’t matter if you eat directly after working out when trying to lose weight. Your body is going to lose weight regardless of the timing of your meal.
Don’t forget, you cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit. Now that you know all this, how important is it to eat after a workout?
Are you working out towards your goals?
Assuming that your caloric state is reflective of your goals, your workout plan is going to be the next major milestone.
I spent more years than I would like to admit just aimlessly wandering around the gym. Everytime I read an article in Mens Fitness about a new workout some actor was doing, I would try that out. Then when I didn’t see results in a few weeks, on to the next one I would go.
This is not the way to do it. If you are trying to build muscle, you are going to want to do weight training 3-4 days a week. If you combine a workout plan with a caloric surplus, your muscles will grow faster than you ever thought possible.
Something for you to consider is that I built over 20 pounds of muscle in the first year of weight training AND actively eating at a caloric surplus.
For FREE workout plans, you can check out our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). Our workout plans were designed for building muscle. But if you want to shed fat, we can move on to high intensity interval training or HIIT for short.
HIIT workouts are the foundation for shedding fat. If you are eating at a caloric deficit AND doing HIIT 3-4 days per week, you will be losing fat at a rapid pace. We have 10 built-in HIIT workouts in our app.
If apps aren’t your thing, check out the best high intensity interval training workouts for beginners at home.
As you can see, your workout plans will vary drastically depending on your goals. Make sure that your caloric state is indicative of your goals before choosing your path.
Eating after a workout is satisfying, but…
I know how it feels. You just crushed your workout, and you are ready to scarf down a meal. But be careful. A lot of people will use this opportunity to pig out and eat more than they need. We might use the fact that we just crushed a workout to justify our big meal.
Well, to be honest, it all depends on your goals again. If you are trying to lose fat, you are going to want to be significantly more careful about how much you eat after a workout.
How important is it to eat after a workout if you are trying to lose weight? If you are trying to lose weight, the significance of eating after a workout is pretty much pointless. Again, it might be satisfying, but it is not going to have any physical benefits to your body.
If you are trying to gain weight, eating after a workout might be the best time because your body is primed to receive nutrients. We must consider that there isn’t much evidence to suggest that eating directly after a workout is that important.
I will stress this again. Total caloric state is the most important thing that we will need to consider when we are trying to change our body composition.
My advice for you here is to plan out your meals for the day. Know how many calories you are taking in. And if it is convenient for you to eat after a workout, then by all means, go for it. If it isn’t convenient, don’t sweat it.
Main Point: How important is it to eat after a workout?
If you have read this far, by now you know the truth about our question. How important is it to eat after a workout? Total caloric state is significantly more important than eating after a workout.
If we want to hit our goals rapidly, we must face the truth that we need to know our bodys well. And part of knowing our bodies is knowing our maintenance calorie number.
It doesn’t end with knowing your maintenance calorie number. You must decide if you are going to be eating at a caloric surplus or a caloric deficit.
Remember, a caloric surplus is over your maintenance calories. People will eat at a caloric surplus if they are trying to gain weight. I recommend eating 500 calories per day over maintenance and doing weight training 3-4 days per week. This will ensure that your extra calories go towards building muscle.
A caloric deficit is when you eat under your maintenance calories. A caloric deficit is necessary if you are trying to burn fat. I recommend eating 500 calories per day under maintenance and doing HIIT workouts 3-4 days per week. This will burn fat faster than you could ever imagine.
My last bit of parting advice is to commit to sticking with your plan. As you can see by this article, the formula for weight gain or weight loss is actually very simple. If you stay true to yourself and the plan, you will be unstoppable.
Don’t be one of those people that stays strict for 6 days per week and then on the 7th day, they have a blowout cheat day. You should read our article: How often should you have a cheat day when you are trying to lose weight.
Best of luck to you in your fitness journey!