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The 30-MIN Window: Post-Workout Meal Myths Part II

by Peter Cooper 03 Dec 2017 6 Comments

Post-Workout Meal Myths Part II

Welcome back! We already know that it might be okay to wait an hour or two, or even three to eat after finishing at the gym. Today I’m going to tell you why it’s okay to eat pasta if you think protein shakes taste like chalk, or in other words what can constitute a 100%-effective and healthy post-workout (PWO) meal, whenever you should choose to consume it.



While the science of the post-workout window ( see pt. I) is legitimate, as with all things the post-workout meal concept has been picked up by many companies who would like you to believe that the only viable post-workout meal to optimize your results is their 11 000 calorie sugar bomb powder. This is myth number twoyou can and should slam down unhealthy processed sugars. Your muscle cells are primed to uptake glucose more efficiently than normal, but human bodies are never primed to efficiently process 150 grams of pure sugar. Besides, if our goal is for overall health, well-being, and balance, then those carbs should come from natural, unprocessed sources that don’t throw our bodies out of the harmony for which we work so hard through the rest of the day to maintain. The carbs definitely can come from sugars to some extent, such as fruits or small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. The majority should come from complex carbohydrates (starches like pasta, rice, potatoes) that will breakdown rapidly enough into glucose to make it into those primed muscle cells before the window shuts, without shocking your homeostasis with excessive insulin spikes.
Note: this is one time where it is OK to choose white rice and pastas over their wholegrain counterparts, if we are mostly concerned with the speed of absorption (see next section!)


The next ingredient is protein, or more specifically amino acids. Amino acids also enter muscle cells wherein they act as building blocks of the protein that makes up our muscles. Insulin and glucose assist in the absorption of amino acids, and thus including some in our post-workout meal is a great idea. Again, proteins that break down somewhat more rapidly into amino acids will make it into our muscle cells more quickly. This is where the science has been stretched yet again; from milk to whey protein to hydrolysed (pre-broken down) whey protein, there seems to be no limit to how much money we can spend on an ever-faster-absorbing protein source. Sticking with our philosophy of overall health, I suggest completely normal proteins that satisfy both our budgets and our nutrition requirements: whey protein powders, vegan protein powders (pea, brown rice, hemp), milk or yogurt, legumes (peanuts, peas, beans), or lean meats. Herein I have busted myth number three: expensive protein powders are the only option.


For those of you in the know about nutrition, you know that we have one more macronutrient to talk about – fats. In the post-workout mythology, fats are the extreme enemy; slow-digesting fats will ruin your post-workout meal and all the benefits of consuming it with one hand while steering the car home with the other ( myth four!). Skipping over the minute details, fats are a completely normal, healthy, and in fact necessary part of our diet. It is true that if we are looking for benefits of post-workout nutrition, that we don’t want a fat-dominant meal. However, some healthy fats will help with digestion of fat-soluble vitamins, and avoiding them like the plague is going to be much more effort than it’s worth. Some examples of fats that could be included are a dash of olive oil in pasta, part of an avocado, a few nuts, or some oily fish.

As a bonus, we will continue with component D in our part III – supplements, wherein I discuss which supplements should be included in the post-workout meal and which ones should be explicitly avoided (spoiler: you might find it surprising!)


To tie everything together, here are a few suggestions for post-workout meals to optimize the physiological benefits of training and maximize your recovery, while keeping overall health and well-being (and relaxation!) as top priorities. The basic formula is carbohydrate-dominant, accompanied by protein, and sprinkled with a bit of fat – use your imagination and follow your tastebuds!

-       Oats with peanut butter, banana, cinnamon and (coconut/almond/hemp/oat/cow/sheep/goat) milk

-       Pasta with tomato sauce, olive oil, and (a bit of) cheese

-       Multigrain toast with (peanut/almond/etc.) butter

-       Granola with yogurt, berries, and (hemp/chia/sunflower/pumpkin) seeds

-       Rice and beans with vegetables and soy sauce

-       Peanut butter, banana, and protein (whey/hemp/pea/brown rice/etc.) shake

-       Stir-fry with rice or noodles, tofu, and vegetables

We would love to hear about your favourite postworkout-meal(s) in the comments below!

Peter C.

Peter is a travelling fitness junkie, always on the search for new opportunities, places, and optimal physical and mental health. He has an academic background in chemistry and environmental science, and a passion for music, creating, and exploring!

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15 Feb 2018 Peter C.

Hi Deebee!

The ketogenic diet is an entity in and of itself, and if adhering strictly to its protocol, then any significant amount of carbohydrates would be inappropriate whether it be postworkout or any other time of day. On a ketogenic diet, since the body is primarily using fatty acids for fuel (rather than carbohydrates [glucose]), the situation becomes entirely different regarding nutrient requirements. In this case a post-workout meal would ideally contain some protein and perhaps less fat than the other meals, although the goal is still to avoid large insulin spikes (which could be triggered by a whey protein shake consumed on its own, for example).

Regarding my opinion, I tend to avoid giving advice per se, but I will say that given the proper mindset, a serious commitment, and the willpower to get through the adjustment phase, a ketogenic diet can be very effective for fat loss (as well as other purported benefits such as mental clarity). This all rests on following a scientifically-backed plan, in order to be safe and make sure you are not putting your body through potentially dangerous deviations from its healthy state!

If you’d like to read more, let me know and I will put together a full post overviewing ketogenic diets. Hopefully this has helped :)

Peter C. from P’tula

14 Feb 2018 Deebee

What is your opinion about the Keto diet? Does post workout meal have to be mostly complex carbs hydrates?

08 Jan 2018 Peter C.

Hey Kelcie,

You are super welcome. Indeed, you had heard a very common myth! Keep enjoying your pasta and stay curious :)

Peter C. from P’tula

08 Jan 2018 Peter C.


Awesome to know we helped you clear some of the confusion. Exactly as you said, don’t stress, eat some healthy food you love, and keep enjoying your fitness journey :)

Peter C. from P’tula

30 Dec 2017 Kelcie gilpin

Thank you for this help!!! I had heard once thaf protein shakes PWO were the only way to grow muscle ? Now I love me some pasta!

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