It seems counter intuitive to eat fat after an intense workout. Besides the unbearable guilt of potentially sabotaging the workout effort
s, one’s stomach is often left feeling uncomfortable afterwards. Additionally, professionals often advocate post workout meals to be rich in protein and carbohydrates, not fats. However, is a complete post workout fat aversion something that we have unnecessarily imposed on ourselves, or is it a justified approach that we should adhere to?
People often avoid consuming fat after exercising due to a myriad of reasons. This is especially so for heavy lifting as there is a distinct need for the body to recover. However, there is a misconception that fat slows the rate of recovery. This was extrapolated from the fact that fat does slow down gastric emptying. This in turn reduces the rate that carbohydrates enter the bloodstream and into the muscles for glycogen repletion. However, there is no conclusive evidence that shows consuming fat after training hampers recovery.
It is interesting to note that there has been a study that showed that consuming a post-workout mixed meal (in this case, pizza) that contained a healthy portion of fat (17g) increased insulin levels high enough to halve muscle protein breakdown. Lending credence to this precedent, other studies have also shown that fat consumption after working out, even at levels as high as 165g, will not be detrimental to recovery.
Of course, the conclusion of these studies was not about justifying binge-eating fatty food after working out. The main point to note is that strength training recovery relies on the total daily calorie and macronutrient intake. Fat alone has no significant effect on recovery.
As such, perhaps we can afford to be more forgiving when planning our post-workout feed. Eating fat after a workout should not be taboo. So long as you consume sufficient carbohydrates and protein, your training will pay off. Seeking help from a community of fitness enthusiasts or your own fitness coach will help you determine the ideal post workout meal for optimised recovery. Trying different meals will allow you to understand your body better and customise a more effective menu for yourself in the future. Different people have their own preferred post-workout meals. Some recommend having grilled chicken with vegetables, while others swear by an egg omelette with avocado on toast. There are also people who rely sweet potatoes, bananas and oatmeal to keep their muscle glycogen stores full.
In summary, have faith in your body. When you eat in moderation and exercise regularly, your body will use the calories for repair and recovery instead of fat storage. Also, be sure to enjoy your post-workout re-feed. After an hour or so of busting your gut out, it’s only right that you get to have a nice meal!