My typical workout schedule consists of training later at night around 10pm. I’m forced to train at this time due to my work schedule that forces me to work very long hours. I usually get up around 4am and work from 6am-8pm. I have a long drive to and from work, so when I finally get back home I head directly to the gym for my workout. My question is about nutrition and how my post-workout meal might be negatively affecting my gains in building muscle mass. My usual post-workout meal is 1 cup of oatmeal, 1 banana and 8 ounces of chicken breast. Is this good for building muscle or should I change it to something else like a post-workout shake?
This is a very interesting question and you have a few options for post-workout nutrition when you train later at night. First off, one of the most important factors for answering your question is knowing your current body type, whether you are an ectomorph or an endomorph. Body types, also called somatotypes, are basically the structure or build of a person. A skinnier person who is very lean and has a hard time packing on muscle mass is considered an ectomorph. A person who holds a considerable amount of body fat and has a hard time losing weight is considered an endomorph. The third somatotype is called a mesomorph and this is the person who has an easy time building muscle and is also lean, which is the most ideal body type most people want to have.
The reason why your body type is important when designing your post-workout nutrition plan is because if you are a person who is holding extra body fat then you want to avoid high glycemic, insulin spiking foods or supplements later at night when your natural levels of insulin are less sensitive. What this means is that when you eat foods later at night, the hormone in your body called insulin, which regulates blood sugar, has a much harder time doing its job versus during earlier times during the day. If insulin does not do its job to decrease blood sugar levels, then you will have much harder time burning body fat.
If you fall into the endomorph body type (have more body fat) then your late night post-workout nutrition should consist of more protein and lower insulin spiking starchy carbs. If you like to drink a shake post-workout, then have 1-2 scoops of whey protein in water after your workouts to get an adequate amount of protein to your muscles and to ensure you have a positive nitrogen balance before going to bed. If you don’t like shakes and want to eat real food, then an egg white veggie omelet works great after your workout. Remember that this is the post-workout nutritional protocol for a person with an endomorph body type who tends to be a little overweight and who has a hard time losing body fat.
However, if you have a skinnier body type (ectomorph) and have a hard time gaining weight, then your post-workout will be much different. You mentioned that you currently eat oatmeal, chicken breast and a banana for your post-workout meal. The reason why this is not ideal is because of the slow process of digestion. When you eat whole foods, it takes your body time to fully digest and utilize the nutrients you eat. Carbs are very important for the ectomorph since you want to spike insulin post-workout in order to get all of the protein and other nutrients to your muscles quickly to help them recover and grow. The type of carbohydrates you eat is critical and you want to focus on eating high glycemic foods at this time. Oatmeal is considered a slow acting carbohydrate and it’s a food that is more beneficial for eating pre-workout before you train versus post-workout since it will give you a slow release of energy to fuel your workouts.
Your best option for post-workout nutrition is to have a shake with fast acting protein, high glycemic carbs and zero fat. Great carb sources post-workout consist of waxy maize starch and dextrose which can both be found in many of the popular post-workout nutritional supplements on the market. For protein, stick with a fast acting source like whey protein to get the nutrients to your muscles quickly. Your carbs should be in the range of 60-80 grams and your protein should be around 20-30 grams for the ideal ratio of nutrients to consume after your workouts to rebuild your muscles.