Every major fitness magazine and website tells you to eat within an hour of working out. Directly after a workout your blood circulates best, you digest carbohydrates more effectively, and you will absorb protein better to make all kinds of gains.
Some of those things are true… some are debatable.
Most “facts” about eating post workout have been created by protein and supplement companies as an effort to sell more products. It is easy to sell a protein shake right after a gym-goer finishes his or her workout. It is not as easy to sell the shake two hours later.
There are benefits to eating right after exercise, don’t get me wrong. But it is not always best to eat so soon after an intense workout.
Exercise affects both acute and chronic inflammation. Exercise, when done regularly, improves chronic inflammation over time. This is great! Less inflammation in the body reduces your risk of heart disease and eases arthritis pain.
However, exercise also increases acute inflammation. This happens directly after a workout. Inflammation is a vital step when it comes to repairing muscle fibers. Some level of inflammation after exercise is necessary if you want to build muscle, increase strength or change your body in some way.
However, if you eat during the peak of this inflammation, you may experience bloating and cause more serious gut problems. Most people experience some level of bloat after eating a meal or drinking a protein shake. With your body in such a sensitive state after a workout, the bloating will likely be worse.
Not only will a post-workout meal bloat you up, but your body may also start to reject the foods you eat at this time. You can start to build intolerances and experience symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
Many serious exercisers have gut issues because of this theory that eating right after exercise is best.
If you enjoy eating right after a workout because it fits your schedule or you are on a high calorie diet to promote weight gain, try eating something with anti-inflammatory benefits. Add turmeric to your meal or drink a plant-based protein blended with antioxidant rich berries. But remember that the vast majority of people do not need to eat post-workout and may see additional benefits to waiting a couple hours before consuming anything.