Having been an athlete all my life, not eating lunch or after practices was never a thought in my mind, heck, I was the kid sneaking food in class because there was just no way I would make it to lunch without a snack!
I have heard at least three people in the past month mention that after their late workouts in the evening (and we are talking Crossfit workouts here..not just some slow easy cardio), they go home, take a shower, then go to bed. The reason they don’t eat after their workout is because they already had dinner beforehand and they don’t want any food that they eat after their late workout to get stored as fat.
I almost died…well not literally, but almost went into shock. I didn’t even think that this could have been a mindset that people have, and then I realized it may be a lot more common than I think. After I picked my chin up from the ground, and wiped the look of disbelief off my face, I told them that there are nights that I would get home after late night class (not even a workout) and I would eat my last meal at 11-11:30 then go to bed…most of the time resulting in me weighing even less the next morning! They couldn’t believe I would do that, or that I would be lighter the next morning. I then went into a long discussion as to why eating post workout is crucial and if you are going to eat at any time during the day, it should be post workout, regardless of the time in order to promote recovery, muscle gain, etc.
So I have compiled a list of reasons as to why you should be eating after your late night workout:
1. After an intense workout, your muscle fibers and connective tissue will have microscopic tears. With proper hydration, nutrition, and rest, these tears will heal and develop a stronger, bigger (ladies–this doesn’t mean hulk-like) muscle–but this process can take a couple days to a week or so depending on a lot of factors. Now imagine if you didn’t feed your muscles after you broke them down? Kinda like giving a kid an ice cream cone and then smacking it out of his hand. He will probably hate you afterwards…do you want your muscles to hate you? I don’t think so, especially when you ask them to work for you during the following day’s workout!
2. Your muscles do most of their repair work during sleep. Since there is a surge of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) released an hour after we fall asleep, it is critical for us to get a good night’s sleep to make sure our muscles can optimally use HGH to rebuild. If our muscles have the necessary fuel, they will get after the rebuilding process, but if not, welp, they won’t.
3. Without protein in your system, your body will eventually break down amino acids from your muscles in order to give your stomach something to “chew” on during sleep (long duration without food–basically fasting period). This is why it is a good thing to eat a protein snack before bed to prevent this from potentially occurring.
4. If you have just finished a hard workout, you will need carbs and protein. Why you may ask? Because to insure that your muscles have the fuel necessary to rebuild, they need the carbs to feed the muscle (restore glycogen stores) and the protein to build the muscle back up.
5. Take a look at your body. Especially for those of you that are rail thin and can’t understand why you aren’t adding muscle to your frame but yet, you are guilty of not feeding your muscles post workout, well there ya go. I bet you notice a difference in the way you feel, the intensity you are able to achieve in your workouts, and you will start to see muscle gain once you add a post-workout meal!
6. Random additional points (possibly unrelated):
- You will only increase your body fat if you eat more than you are burning.
- If you are overweight and wonder why, either you are eating yourself out of house and home, or you are hardly eating at all (besides the possible binges on weekends).
- If you eat at 12AM, you will not get fat unless you are eating crap and it puts you over the caloric intake that keeps you at maintenance.
- Sometimes reaching your goal may require you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable whether that is eating past feeling full, being ok with being hungry at times, or eating past 6pm at night..who thought up that rule anyway?
Now go get after your workouts..and EAT afterwards!