Best Post Workout Meal: Does It Really Help If I Take Sugar and Protein After Workout?

Here’s another issue we usually get a lot of conflicting advice about: Post Workout Nutrition. Sure, a lot of research had already established that we really lose a lot of essential nutrients during exercise, and the sooner we replace them after workout the better. But is it really imperative for our post workout meal to be in liquid form? Or is this just another one of those hypes that protein supplement companies are using to get us to buy their products all the time? And what about this talk about having to wait a specific amount of time after your workout before you take your post workout meal?

Tom Venuto, author of [thirstylink linkid=”3671″ linktext=”Burn The Fat Feed the Muscle” class=”thirstylink” title=”Burn The Fat Feed the Muscle”], provides some helpful answers.

Best Post Workout Meal: Does It Really Help If I Take Sugar and Protein After Workout?

By Tom Venuto, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
[thirstylink linkid=”3671″ linktext=”” class=”thirstylink” title=””]


Dear Tom,
I came across a piece of muscle-building advice written on a white board at a Bally’s fitness club, posted outside the “advanced” personal training station. I took a picture and attached it to this email. As you can see, it said to ingest whey protein and 60-70 grams of *simple sugars* 30-45 minutes after your workout.

Is there any truth at all to this advice? I take particular exception to point #1… I can’t believe eating 60-70 grams of simple sugar at any time can be good for you!

If this is indeed bad advice, I will write Bally’s corporate and tell them to stop hurting the public with bad advice from their personal trainers.

What do you think? thanks,



It does seem counter intuitive, but believe it or not, that is standard, and science-based advice for post workout nutrition.

Post workout nutrition has been well researched and there is evidence that taking in simple carbs – usually glucose or dextrose with maltodextrin (plus whey protein) in the form of a post workout drink – is an ideal post workout recovery “meal.”

The part about “waiting” 30-45 minutes is the part that is questionable, but that may have been a simple oversight… I think what they meant was to ingest it “within” 30-45 minutes.

Most of the research says that the sooner after the workout you take post workout nutrition, the better (which is why you see so many people these days chugging down workout drinks while still at the gym… in the locker room, etc.)

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That said, here is where I will get controversial, because almost everything you read and everyone you talk to these days tries to convince you that if you’re not drinking a post workout shake, all the time, regardless of your goals, you are some kind of nut case with a “death wish” for muscle loss.

Post-workout nutrition is very important, no question about that.

The debatable part is whether it’s a must to get it in the form of liquid sugar or simple carbs + whey and especially when your goal is maximum fat loss.

After reviewing the research and taking into account real world results (on myself and my clients), my opinion is that a large whole food meal does the job just fine, especially in the context of a 6 meals a day bodybuilding style nutrition program.

I think you could use whole food or a drink and get great results either way.

How you approach post-workout nutrition is going to depend a lot on what your goal is at any given time. If your goal is gaining muscle mass or maximizing endurance training or sports performance, you might approach it differently than if you were on a strict fat-loss program (such as preparing for a fitness or bodybuilding competition).

On a muscle growth program, I would say it’s a great idea to take advantage of the commercial post-workout drinks available to you because it’s hard to eat enough calories to gain lean body weight.

Among a list of other benefits like increased protein synthesis, decreased exercise-induced cortisol, glycogen replenishment, and improved recovery, post workout drinks provide a convenient and easy way to get more calories and that indeed may help muscle growth.

On endurance programs, recovering from workouts and keeping glycogen stores topped off are important objectives, so again a post workout drink with plenty of carbs – yes, the simple variety – is beneficial.

Where I suggest caution is when you’re shifting gears from muscle gain into fat loss.

My personal preference is to continue focusing on the importance of a good post workout meal, but to take my post workout nutrition in the form of solid food with the same complex and natural carbs I eat in all my other meals.

A nutrition and training principle you should always live by is:

“Don’t compromise your primary objective.”

If your primary objective is fat loss, I can’t see taking in a large amount of pure sugar post-workout as a good strategy to maximize your fat loss. It might assist muscle growth, enhance recovery, or help restore your glycogen, but it won’t enhance your fat loss.

Keep in mind, however, that you’re very unlikely to store calories consumed after intense training as body fat, because your muscles are “hungry” and like sponges for soaking up carbs and protein after the workout, so you don’t need to worry about that.

But I can tell you from personal experience as a competitive bodybuilder and fat loss coach that you will almost always get leaner, faster with whole food (especially people with an endomorph body type who are carb sensitive).

This is probably due to the thermogenic nature of whole food and the obvious fact that refined sugar is simply not fat loss food.

Because post workout nutrition is so important and because commercial post workout drinks can be so beneficial in so many ways, one way to tackle this fat loss issue if you’re already using a drink, is to leave your post workout drink in during the early stages of your fat loss program and then if your fat loss slows down or you plateau, the drink is the first thing to get cut as you make your fat loss Diet stricter.

As always, adjust your approach NOT by the information you read in the magazines or by the conventional wisdom you hear in the gym, but by the actual results you are getting in the real world.

Also remember that you must adjust your approach according to your goals and slant everything towards achieving your primary objective with maximum efficiency.

You can learn more about nutrition techniques that are designed specifically to maximize fat loss in the Burn The Fat program:

Tom Venuto Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle

About the Author:

Tom Venuto is a fat loss expert, lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer, and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, [thirstylink linkid=”3671″ linktext=”Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models” class=”thirstylink” title=”Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat-Burning Secrets of The World’s Best Bodybuilders & Fitness Models”] which teaches you how to get lean without drugs or supplements using secrets of the world’s best bodybuilders and fitness models.

If you’re interested in learning even more secrets of bodybuilders and fitness models, [thirstylink linkid=”3671″ linktext=”visit the Burn The Fat website at:” class=”thirstylink”]



Founder & Fitness Nerd

Founder of Muscle4Hardgainers. Loves to experiment and teach others the best ways to reach their physical goals.

  1. hello,
    i have strted gym to loose fat but i m nt able to take any food or protein r nythng after my workout till 2 hrs …what i can do in that case it necessary to take post workout meal????and what if i dont take………..seekng to hear soon from you

    1. Hi Tisha – why are you having trouble consuming protein after your workouts? Is it that you feel sick? If you don’t consume either a protein-rich drink or meal after working out, your body will have less nutrients with which to create muscle mass. So it would be in your best interests to consume protein in a simple format (the simpler the better as it will more quickly enter your bloodstream) perhaps such as a shake. A great shake to try is Sunwarrior – it doesn’t bloat you and it’s so silky and clean in texture that it really doesn’t make you feel sick at all. Check out my review here:

  2. I recently posted something related to this on my blog over at…

    The ideal time for you to eat your pre workout meal
    is an hour before you start. If you plan to work
    at a low intensity level, you should keep your pre
    workout meal down to 200 calories or so. If you
    plan to exercise at a high level of intensity, you
    will probably need your meal to be between 4,000
    and 5,000 calories.

    Take a look and please feel free to drop in a comment with your
    own two cents as well…

    Thank you,
    Larry Franchi

  3. The reason people recommend ingesting glucose or simple sugars is for the following reason:

    Glucose has ‘protein sparing’ effects in medical terms-this means than when glucose enters the blood (instantly) it causes the islet of langerhans cells in the pancreas to release bursts of insulin (that last a few minutes)-insulin when in the blood prevents ‘Glucagon’ (another endocrine hormone from the pancreas that breaks down tissue for fuel) from being released.

    Having said that, ingesting large amounts of glucose after simple workouts like a gym workout (instead of an endurance session e.g. a triathlon) will cause you to gain FAT! So I agree with Tom Venuto’s advice that you can eat whole-food carbohydrates as they also will help you take in protein due to the insulin release, but because of the slow-release nature of wholegrains, it won’t make you fat!

    Good luck!