As you go about your plan to build lean muscle mass, one thing that you must be taking into account is the post workout nutrition protocol that you’re using, along with the rest that follows.

One big mistake that far too many people make as they go about their training program is believing that muscle growth takes place in the gym.

It’s quite the opposite in fact.

Muscle growth is going to take place when you leave the gym and start the repair and recovery process. While you’re in the gym, you’re actually just breaking the muscle tissues down, becoming weaker and weaker.

So in essence, if you skip over the rest and recovery process, you’ll actually wind up moving backwards in your progress rather than forwards.

Hopefully this clearly illustrates just how important the rest and recovery process is for seeing muscle gain success.

Let’s take some time right now to go over the main requirements that you should know about for both of these factors so that you can be sure they’re in place with your own program plan.

Post Workout Nutrition

First let’s discuss post workout nutrition.  You want to be having something to eat or drink as quickly as possible after your workout session.  While some people like to shower first, you really must try and get this in as soon as the workout is completed as possible.

Doing so is going to ensure that you are able to kick-start the recovery process, moving faster along your path to success.

If you wait too long, you will miss the ‘window of opportunity’ where your muscle cells are especially receptive to taking up the nutrients that you’re feeding them.

Your post workout nutrition should consist primarily of a lean protein source along with a fast acting carbohydrate. If there’s one time in the day when you do want simple carbs, this would be it.

The simple carbohydrates (one of my favorite is the Power Carbs) are going to hit the blood stream and spike blood glucose levels ever so slightly, which will then cause a good insulin release in the body, which will remove the glucose from the blood and into muscular storage.

This insulin release process must be there for fast muscle recovery to be seen, which is why very slow digesting carbohydrates are not actually ideal at this point in time.

Your protein source should also be relatively fast digesting as well so the muscle tissues can get those amino acids at record speed. Most people will opt for a whey protein isolate powder during the post workout period as it’s ultra-fast to mix and consume and simple for immediately after the gym.

It’s also specially formulated for the post workout period, so good in that regard as well.

Make sure that you avoid eating fat at this meal as best as possible because doing so would increase the total digestion time that’s required for the food, which would mean that you may not see recovery as quickly either.

Save fat for later on the day when you want slow digestion to occur.

Also keep in mind that you should follow up this post-workout meal or shake with a solid food meal with complex carbohydrates about an hour later. This will help prevent a blood sugar crash that would just leave you feeling hungrier than you were before.

In terms of how much nutrient to eat during the post workout meal, this will depend largely on your specific calorie intake and goals, but you should be aiming for around 300-600 calories in most cases with 30-60 grams of protein and the rest carbohydrates.

Rest And Recovery

Moving along, the next thing to address is rest and recovery.  How much rest you need between workout sessions is going to be highly variable depending on a number of factors.

First, you’ll want to think about your age.  Older individuals typically need more rest than younger individuals, so that’s the first thing to get factored into the equation.

Second, if you’re doing a higher volume workout program, you’ll need slightly more rest between sessions than if you’re doing a lower volume session. Some people can train on an upper/lower split, doing two workouts in a row without a problem, while others will struggle.

For those that struggle to do two workouts back to back, a full body approach does tend to be superior since then you do get that day off to rest and recover between the workout sessions.

Finally, also consider how high in calories your diet is. The more calories you have coming in, typically the faster the recovery will be, but remember that too many calories could also mean fat gain, so there is a trade-off here with this.

Ideally you want to be providing around a 250-300 calorie surplus each day to optimize your results while staying lean in the process.

As you’re on your off days between your weight lifting workouts, you’ll want to aim to avoid any high intensity activities.

Doing these would immediately hinder the recovery process entirely as you’ll still be stressing the muscles as well as the central nervous system.

Remember that the nervous system also plays a big role in the recovery process as well, so it’s not enough to just see muscular recovery, you need to see central nervous system recovery as well.

By making sure you’re eating right and sleeping well each night, you can do your best to see the faster recovery rates you need during your rest periods so that you can get back in the gym again and train sooner.

So there you have the two components of success – post workout nutrition and rest that must also be considered. Make sure that you aren’t overlooking these in your approach so that you can see the long term results that you’re going for.

Martin Bolduc, CPT, ACE, CFNS
2008 Lean Body Challenge Champion

About the Author
Martin Bolduc is the author of “The Ultimate Guide to Express Fat loss” and the winner of the Lean Body Challenge 2008. Martin  is a Certified Personal Trainer ACE and Certified  Fitness Nutrition Specialist. He is a natural bodybuilder in the INBF. Martin helps hundreds of clients to reach their fitness goals.