Hang on.. Did you read that right? You’ve heard of the benefits of a post-workout protein shake, or maybe even a post-workout green juice, but a post-workout burger? I’ve not gone crazy – I promise!
Okay, so it’s not the healthiest to base your entire diet around burgers and fries, especially considering the latest World Heath Organisation research revealing a link between processed meat and colorectal cancer. The study also claimed that avoiding meat is not a protective strategy against cancer, so it’s simply a case of moderation – and if you’re going to treat yourself, then post-workout is the perfect time as your body is crying out for densely-packed food.
What Happens to the Body During a Workout?
There are so many processes that constantly happen in the body and these are multiplied during a workout – but in very simple terms, your body uses stored energy to fuel your movement. This energy is called glycogen, and your body can store around an hour’s worth of it within your muscles and liver. Quickly refilling these stores with post-workout carbs means you’ll be able to get back in the game fast.
Exercise causes tiny tears in muscle. This is perfectly normal, and the body repairing these tears is what causes us to become stronger and our muscles to grow bigger. Protein is the macronutrient famous for growth and repair, but fats also contribute to this, and also cell functions.
Macros to Refuel
Now we know what happens to the body, we can figure out that after a tough workout it’s pretty important to get some carbs, fats, and protein on board to help our bodies repair and get us back in the game fast. A meal of salmon, brown rice, and vegetables has all of these macros in, but you just burned 600+ calories doing an hour of CrossFit, so that meal may not be dense enough to refuel (plus, you PRed you squat clean, so you damn well need to reward yourself). Not refuelling properly after training will mean you’re more likely to get hungry quicker and ravenously raid your cupboards later in the day, plus your body will be slower to repair if it hasn’t had its fill.
Another meal that has a balance of carbs, protein, and fat..? You got it – a burger. The fast-acting carbs of the bun will refill your glycogen stores, creating new energy for the next workout. The protein from the burger will get straight to repairing and strengthening your muscles. Fat will help transport vitamins to where the body needs them most. And best of all? Both you and your body (like they’re two separate entities..) will be satisfied by the post-workout meal, meaning no hunger later on. Brilliant. There’s even a study that shows fast food is as effective as supplements post-workout – can’t argue with science, can we?
Eat Big to Grow Big
For a long time I was training hard and eating clean, expecting my muscles to grow super-strong. Not a great deal happened. I got pretty skinny, but the butt I so longed for wasn’t appearing, despite hundreds of weighted squats. Fast-forward to present day, where vegetables, fruit, nuts, and slow-digesting carbs make up the bulk of my diet – but I also eat calorie-dense not-so-clean food, especially after a workout.
Since I started to eat to match my training, my muscles have grown, and yes – I have a butt! I understand not everyone wants to get big, but if you’re working hard to grow a certain muscle group, it’s going to be difficult for you to get enough calories in to grow. The same study that claimed post-workout fast food worked as well as post-workout supplements even concluded that subjects’ glycogen stores who had eaten the fast food were fuller than those who had the ‘healthy’ supplements.
This article wasn’t entirely serious – I am in no way suggesting you eat a full burger and fries after every single workout (but if you want to? That’s cool too). I’m saying that after a workout is the ideal time to eat a calorie-dense meal like this, so if you’ve trained hard and feel like a pizza, burger, or cupcake, go for it.
There are much worse things you could eat – like nothing at all. If you’re happiest eating mega clean, then get a balanced snack straight after working out, then a meal soon after that. My burger was from Revolution on Oxford Road*, and it was a good old medium-rare with cheese, but you could also have a grilled chicken burger with avocado, and make your fries at-home using sweet potatoes. Totally up to you – just make sure your post-workout meal has a good mixture of carbs, fat, and protein.
Refuel properly after training and you WILL see a difference in both your body composition and your performance!