T Nation

Post Cardio Nutrition


Sorry to bring up post-workout nutrition, I know that its been discussed at length, but I had a question I couldn't find an answer to...

I started splitting up my cardio (usually 20 min of intervals) and weight lifting sessions and I was wondering if my post workout meals should change as a result.

In the past, it was protein shake (20g protein) with creatine right after, then 2/3 cup oats (240 cal, 48 carb, 10g fiber) as soon as I got home. Would this still be ok even on cardio days? It seems like a lot of food for less work.

Fat loss is not the main goal, though I wouldn't mind losing some. I'm 5'3, 130 lbs and diet is moderately low carb (100g) and cals range between 1600 and 2000 (don't know if that helps at all)



Cardio can require as much or more protein in the diet as lifting. While it doesn't build much muscle, especially hard or long cardio can require a good deal of muscle repair.

Generally, with both cardio and lifting you want to get some simple sugars (not just protein) in quickly to promoted an insulin spike. Add some maltodextrin or even regular granulated sugar to your protein shake. This helps with getting glycogen stores replenished, but also helps transport the protein into the cells where it can begin going to work.

The carbs in oats, esp. w/ the fiber takes a lot longer to raise your blood sugar. Still better than nothing, but I'd shuffle them around to get fast digesting carbs in right away, cut the oatmeal and have a more regular meal about an hour or two after your workout (make sure you are still getting at least 30g. of fiber a day in your diet).

If you are wanting to lose a little fat even while adding the extra food, I'd just make sure that now that your cardio and lifting are on different days that you make sure both are as high quality as you can.

You can also add five minutes of slow cardio to the end of each workout to burn some extra calories without adding extra stress- sort of a pre-cool-down. You will also have the post-exercise metabolism boost twice as often as you did when you combined your cardio and lifting. It wont be twice as many calories, but being able to get high quality in on both sessions should produce a boost in calories burnt compared to what you were doing.

In other words, you should have much more productive cardio sessions (presuming before cardio followed lifting, if not it will be more productive lifting sessions) than you did and offset the additional calories of the extra post-workout food.

Just keep an eye on things, and if your waistline starts heading in the wrong direction, adjust by offsetting some calories elsewhere in the diet or doing a bit more exercise. I think you'll find you are pleased by the results.



aside from Surge and sugar, is there any other easy (and cost effective) way to get the simple sugars? can you get plain maltodextrin?


It would have to be a fairly taxing cardio effort to warrant the need to spike your insulin post. The objective with spiking your insulin is to shuttle the nutrients back in the muscle and glycogen stores that you deplete during your workout.

Chances are during your cardio workout you aren't depleting those very much. Some simple protein is all you need to be concerned about. I wouldn't worry about sugar or an insulin spike. Now on days you do a combination workout, weights and cardio, I would definitely do somthing along the lines of Surge or the simpler version - "chocolate milk".


Yeah I buy plain Maxim powder but I dunno if you can get this brand in the US? You should be able to find something similar though.


The plain one doesn't really taste of anything, its just sort of mildly sweet.


I like the chocolate milk idea. milk + chocolate protein powder is the best! maybe a little choc syrup...to increase the carbs??

then again, I think I once read that dairy causes a fairly high insulin spike. Anyone know if this is true?


Dairy is one of those odd foods that has a low glycemic index, so people on Atkins & related diets thought it was good for them and shunned things like rice which had a high glycemic index.

It turns out that on the limited testing of foods for their actual blood insulin impact, dairy has a high insulin index (spikes insulin well per dose) while rice has a low insulin index. So, yes milk is good a spiking your insulin, although not as effective as dextrose (glucose) or maltodextrin.

I'd agree w/ eengrms76 that if you're only doing 20 minutes of intervals you mentioned when you did cardio & lifting at the same time (presumably with at least a few minutes warm up and cool down), you don't really need to spike your insulin, but you do want to make sure that you have a good supply of blood glucose to prevent your body turning to protein as a fuel source and to give your body the energy it needs to use the protein you give it to repair the muscle tissue damage.

I tend to sip something with a mixture of simple carbs and proteing a bit at the start, some during, and some after. This is particularly important if you lifted the prior day to keep the muscle growth from that session going.

If however, your intervals go beyond 20-25 minutes, and they are hard, you will definitely get into glycogen depletion. If it is slower, steady state aerobic work for less than 45 minutes or so, you will need almost nothing.


Just plain Surge should give you a hefty dose of carbs, no need to add anything to it (maybe just creatine). The formula is very good. Pretty hard to improve upon it.

1...2 hours later, eat a real meal. But you'll figure that out alone, your body will scream for that meal, trust me.