Testosterone and PWO Nutrition

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.

Doug Young

Doug Young would never cheat you like dat.

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.

29 thoughts on “Testosterone and PWO Nutrition

  1. The only truth I know about food timing is that if I eat immediately after my workout I’ll keep the most fat off and be put to the best use. though I imagine that’s how most feel.

    • You’re overthinking it. If you worry about this you’re more likely to underfeed yourself. Don’t cut your steak in half and save some for later because you think it might not be optimal. Have another steak later instead.

      • There is an article in the archives somewhere I believe that addresses this. Basically says the “too much protein at one time” thing is unfounded and if anything there is some research that states the opposite is true (I want to say some French study showed positive results from high protein meals).

        I may be making all of this up, but I swear I read it on here somewhere.

    • In the book “The Great Cholesterol Con” by Anthony Colpo he explores research with females where they spread their protein intake throughout the day in one group, and in the other group they consumed the majority (at least 70%) of their daily protein intake in at one time. There was no difference in the populations in how their body used the protein (sorry, these are layman’s terms and I haven’t looked at the research in a long time).

      Besides, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that the ability to synthesize protein is an adaptable trait, much like everything else in the body.

  2. Pingback: Echo. | alongthelinesof

  3. Great article! Quick question… I’ve read Paleo for Lifters. My issue is I work a very physical job lifting, hammering, pulling cable, digging, etc. 10+ hours a day for 8 consecutive days. I lift on 4 of those days. I’m gaining weight, strength, and staying around 10% bf. the problem is my carb intake..I can’t dial it in for my activity levels. I feel absolutely smashed around the 6th day of work. What would you recommend as a baseline to start with? I’m 205-210 lbs pulling mid 400s squatting mid 300s benching high 200s pressing high 100s.

    • I’ve been tracking my macros for the last few months and I’m averaging over 300g protein, 200-250g fat, and I’ve fluctuated my carbs between 100g and 500g a day while I’m working.

    • I would think you’d need at least 200g. If you’re feeling shattered, eat more of them (though it sounds like this is your current tactic). You could start with a number (like 200g) and then titrate up if necessary.

      Then again, you’re probably going to feel shattered on the sixth day of anything. Do your best to rest on your off days, deload one week of every six at the least, and sleep as much as you can. That’s a rough schedule to maintain — well done on your progress in spite of it.

  4. Timely article, I’ll be forwarding this to my buddy. Every other week it seems I’m on the phone fielding questions about specific nuances and every damn time I just have to tell him, “Dude, let’s start with the cases of beer in the fridge and the Doritos & Chex Mix in your pantry.” Then we can discuss whether to rest 30 or 45 seconds between sets. Priorities…

    But he can grow a way manlier beard than I can.

  5. Dear Justin, I really like your articles and the impact they have on people habits. You are also talking about scientific facts, which is great since it help us to understand reality. However, when you are doing so, I suggest you to be less categorical about “scientific facts”, because in the end, it can deserve yourself.
    Indeed, it is a very good idea to destroy bro science, but promoting paleo diet while doing it is also destroying a little bit your credibility. I am very sorry if this seems harsh, but this is not the point. But I assume that in your book you have reasonably adapted the paleo diet to the need of a real athlete, because you are a realistic man coaching true athletes (not an imaginary athlete coming from the disturbed mind of an internet paleo guru). Maybe you should have named your book : “a diet that works very nicely for lifters, and that is supported very well by empiric experiments, and that has nothing to do with some prehistoric men”. But it is not a very appealing title. Also, when you are talking about “quality foods that limit systemic inflammation”, or food that creates inflammation, I can see what you are talking about, but this is also a very personal interpretation of some scientific papers and so this is also on the verge of being bro science. But true science is boring, I know. Cheers !

    • The thing about using the Paleo diet as an outline for nutrition is that it works. It drops body fat, improves the blood tests that are relevant for health, and improves the quality and therefore rate of recovery. I’m not a scientist, I’m a practitioner. By all means, please take the conflicting scientific papers to the biochemists like Robb Wolf (or someone less biased), but this “system” is what I have implemented for five years and it is optimal for performance and health and doesn’t require a bunch of weird variation in a diet (like carb loading every other day and such).

      Besides, Paleo is a huge buzz word. Even if I didn’t believe in it, the usage of the term would almost sell itself. In any case, I’m not worried that you are a skeptic, because this style of eating works 100% of the time. Eat high quality foods in an appropriate macronutrient ratio — it’s simple enough to do for the next 5 decades. I’ll get back to you when I’m banging my wife when I’m 80.

      • Thank you for your answer, I really appreciate that you took time for it. Of course the pale diet works (as most diet), I am not skeptic about that and this was not my point (my point was about bro science). It is just the carbo’phobia which annoys me, especially for sport performance. Anyways, thanks for your time and honesty and of course I hope you will still be banging your wife at 80. Me too, but after a big carb loading (for my endurance haha)!

  6. Pingback: The Lifting Digest - 1 September 2013 - All The Heavy Lifting

  7. Pingback: Friday 130906 | CrossFit NYC

  8. Pingback: WOD for Friday Sept 13th: | Crossfit Full Potential

  9. Pingback: Derby City CrossFit | DarkSide Strength | Louisville Sunday 9/15/13 - American Weightlifting

  10. Pingback: 43 Things Worth Reading

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.