I recently had a conversation with someone about post workout nutrition which turned into me regaling them with my general nutrition philosophy which fell back onto the foundation of my training philosophy. Their question asked about timing of their post workout (PWO) and they were bothered by how I sort of shrugged off the need to worry about it.
“But I thought you were supposed to have x amount of protein and y amount of carbs within 45 minutes…and shit?”
That’s what popular muscle magazines or bodybuilding lore would tell us; the timing of meals is quintessential to progress and jackedness. But I say that the intricacies of the PWO nutrition is low on the priority list. Why would you care about the specifics of your protein shake when you don’t meet the required amount of protein each day, much less the minimum amount for your body weight? Oh and you’re eating about 100g more carbs than you need, eating shitty fats, not mobbing, and getting about 6 hours a sleep a night? And you want to worry about how many scoops of protein and molecularly dense carbs to swallow after training? Assuming you’re doing an appropriate systemically stressful strength training session to begin with?
If it sounds silly, it’s because it is. If you feel cheated, it’s because you have been.
Take a look at this short, quality article by Dr. Hartman (The 45-Minute Testosterone Myth). It turns out there really isn’t any research on the “do your workout in 45 minutes or your testosterone levels will drop”. Furthermore, there is discrepancy in the research that may show that protein and carb PWO shakes actually decrease testosterone levels! That sound you hear is your entire world-view burning to the ground.
Hartman goes on to say:
The short-term effects of testosterone to a single session of exercise are inconsequential to long-term performance. Long-term changes, or having testosterone elevated over a period of months and years, have been shown to lead to increased strength, power, hypertrophy, and performance. Short-term; those relationships do not exist.
And this is my point entirely, whether we’re talking PWO nutrition, or nutritional and training philosophy, it’s not the precise decisions you make throughout the day, it’s the fact that you hit the minimum requirements on a regular basis. Timing your daily protein or meal intake pales in comparison to getting the appropriate calories in an optimal macronutrient (proteins, carbs, and fats) distribution on a regular basis.
The chronic effect of doing the simple things right is more important than doing the fancy things occasionally or randomly.
Johnny Skeptic then says, “Well, if I have an optimal PWO meal on a regular basis, won’t it make up for some of my other slacking?” Even if the whole PWO meal was proven to be optimal — the research is meh — it’s better to get the macronutrients you need for the day than it is to specially time everything for your training session. For example, if you train after work and then go home, just eat a quality dinner and don’t worry about making the dinner match an arbitrary PWO requirement.
This is how a discussion on PWO nutrition circles back to general nutrition and training advice; make the simple stuff a habit. Get enough protein and fat to recover, get enough carbs to match your activity level, and get it through quality foods that limit systemic inflammation and help promote recovery (Paleo for Lifters can help you understand this). Worry about your general food intake before even considering supplementation; if you’re eating crap food then the supplements won’t matter anyway. Combine full body, systemically stressful compound movements in each training session a regular basis to get bigger and stronger — squat, press, deadlift, bench, row, and pull-ups. Keep the approach simple, yet consistent. Squatting 100 times over the next year will be more important than following three crazy squat programs sprinkled throughout your year.
Every training or nutrition lesson revolves back to a single, easy idea: the chronic effect of doing the simple stuff correctly is necessary before worrying about sexy or complicated ideas. All that free time you gain by not worrying over your training can now be spent on growing facial hair.