There are two simple principles when it comes to building muscle: You must overload them frequently and feed them appropriately. It's great to put in the work, but you won't reap your labor's benefits if you don’t rebuild properly. Here is exactly what you should do after your workout to get maximum gains.
Current science indicates that what you eat before, during, and after your workouts, known as nutrient timing, is extremely important in maximizing your results. Whether you're trying to lose weight, build muscle, or train for a specific sport, you need to feed your body the right nutrients in the right amounts at the right time. What you eat before prepares your body for your workout, what you eat during (if appropriate) enhances the session itself, and what you take in afterward maximizes the work completed while preparing your body for the next session.
The longer you wait to refuel, the less efficient the body becomes at putting these nutrients to work. Hence the window metaphor: You have an optimal window to take in carbohydrates and protein after each workout.
While taking advantage of the metabolic window is important regardless of your fitness goals, nutrient timing is key to building quality muscle mass. Consume quality carbohydrates to refuel your glycogen stores in preparation for your next workout while taking in protein to help repair and rebuild your muscles as well. For muscle-building, taking in post-workout protein is essential. The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of muscle, and true growth can't occur without them.
Examples of quality post-workout recovery meals are a protein shake with fruit, or tuna on whole-wheat toast. The amount of carbohydrates and protein you refuel with during your post-workout is dependent upon a wide variety of factors, including the specific workout itself, your weight, training schedule, goals, and more, but consuming 20-40g of protein within the metabolic window will reap huge rewards for most.
In life and in fitness, consistency is one of the main secrets to success. You can’t work out once in a while and expect to see real results. The same holds true when it comes to your post-workout nutrition; it’s consistency over time that will bring about major changes. Feed your muscles what they need after every workout within the metabolic window, and you'll be amazed at the body you'll achieve.