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Post Workout Foods

Post-Workout & Non-Workout

Sports scientists love to talk about ‘windows of opportunity’, which are the specific periods of time where you can alter your nutrition, training, recovery and other factors to maximise your performance or gains from the workout. There are four fundamental windows of opportunity; the pre-workout period, the intra-workout period, the post-workout period and the rest of your day.

The post-workout period is by far one of the most researched ‘windows of opportunity’ and countless supplementation and recovery strategies have been and are still being examined today. The non-workout period, which roughly comprises 70-80% of your day, is just as important if not more in helping you achieve the results you want. The distinction between post-workout and non-workout periods is vague and often not mutually exclusive, but for arguments sake, the post-workout period generally resides anywhere between the end of your workout to 3 hours post-training. With that in mind, let’s examine some of the newest supplementation and recovery procedures being studied at the moment.

Tip 1 - Carry Carnitine

Losing fat is by far one of the most common goals from anyone who goes to the gym or plays sport. In fact, many who don’t go to the gym or exercise regularly generally view fat loss as one of their ideal goals. After all, who doesn’t want to a lean and taut figure? Well, maybe sumo wrestlers.....but gaining more muscle mass and losing fat mass is in our society one of the most prized health goals.

There are at the moment, countless fat loss supplements out there ranging from diuretics to carb blockers to fat blockers to appetite suppressants. But what if you could increase your body’s natural ability to burn fat?

Without getting too scientific, a compound in your body known as ‘carnitine’ is responsible for transporting fatty acids into your cells to be used as energy. During exercise, we use both carbohydrates and fat for energy, however as the intensity of our exercise increases, the use of fats for energy declines. While there are multiple reasons why this may be, one suggested hypothesis is that carnitine levels in the body decline.

This has been shown in experiments1 that were able to show that fat burning during exercise is directly correlated to the amount of free carnitine in the body. So, if this were true, then supplementing in carnitine would indeed help increase your body’s ability to burn fat. In an ideal world, this would be true, but is in fact far from being concluded upon. However, with advances in technology and increased knowledge, we can definitely find out soon enough. For now, there’s little to no harm in supplementing with carnitine, so why not give it a go.

Here are some of the top tips for using carnitine as a training aid:

  • There are many types of carnitine from acetyl-l-carnitine to propionyl-l-carnitine to glycated propionyl-l-carnitine. While each offers their own subset of benefits, to increase your fat burning ability, simple L-carnitine will do.
  • In terms of dosage, studies have shown that consuming 1.2 g of l-carnitine twice a day is adequate to increase your body’s free levels of l-carnitine.
  • Ingesting some carbohydrates seems to help with absorption.

Tip 2 - Cold Showers

While they may feel great on an extremely hot day, generally cold showers aren’t too pleasant. But so are many others things that are good for you according to our parents. But immersing yourself in cold water may actually be beneficial in recovery. Anyone who’s ever trained before should know that sore feeling you get the next day or two after a particular strenuous session or if you haven’t exercised in a while.

This soreness is known as ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ or DOMS for short and is what saps the motivation to get back in the gym the next day or even the next couple of days. Why not give DOMS a shove and bathe yourself in cold water, which has been shown to help alleviate soreness associated with eccentric movements and also local inflammation markers2.

Here are some top tips to using cold water immersion as a training aid:

  • Use water that is around 5-15 degress celcius.
  • Anywhere between 5-15 minutes should be enough to help alleviate DOMS for 24 hrs-96 hrs post exercise.
  • While it can help with soreness, it cannot fix losses in strength as your muscles are still recovering. Therefore it is still important to exercise different muscle groups if you plan to work out the following day.

Tip 3 - Braaaaains

Zombies seem to enjoy eating them, but unfortunately, brains and other organ meats (offal) isn’t the cuisine of choice for a majority of people. Which is a shame considering that they are packed full of nutrition. Organ meats, especially bovine brains are especially high in a compound called phosphatidylserine.

Still relatively new in the supplement industry universe, phosphatidylserine has been shown to be help increase exercise performance capacity, decrease post-exercise cortisol responses and improve mood states3.

Unfortunately you won’t be able to find many animal derived phosphatidylserine supplements due to dangers of mad cow disease (though there has been no cases in Australia). Most if not all phosphatidylserine supplements are currently derived from soy.

Here are some top tips to using phosphatidylserine as a training aid:

  • While supplements are always handy, you can get plenty of your phosphatidylserine from organ meats, fish and to a lesser extent white beans. Most other plant based foods don’t contain high amounts of the compound.
  • In terms of dosage, while typical daily doses range from 100-500mg/day, studies showing benefit of the compound consist of supplementing at 800mg/day.

Tip 4 - Chew Some Parsley

While a mouthful of parsley isn’t considered everyone’s cup of tea, not only can it freshen your breath, but research has shown it to possess strong diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-fungal activity4.

As strenuous exercises is well known for depressing the immune system, it’s important not only to ensure you get plenty of recovery time, but ensure that you are eating and supplementing correctly to prevent illness, which can stop you from training.

So don’t throw away that garnish, eat it up and keep you immune system strong. Moreover, for those who love to eat salt or are simply looking at losing some water weight, parsley is a great natural diuretic which may help.

Here are some top tips for using parsley as a training aid:

  • While parsley is generally a garnish, salads such as the Middle Eastern tabouleh is made predominantly with parsley.
  • Both the seeds and the leaves possess similar compounds and thus similar beneficial properties.

Tip 5 - Late Night Snacking

For those who have been training for awhile, this tip should come as no surprise. But it is still surprising how many people choose to exclude this simple yet effective strategy to increase your muscle gains. Tip number 5 addresses the importance of a pre-bed protein shake.

During your sleep, your body is doing a lot of its repair work, but by doing so, it is also highly catabolic. In fact, for many people, the period of sleep also coincides with a reduction in whole body protein synthesis and a trend towards a negative protein balance by the time you wake up for breakfast. This will inevitably set you back from achieving the muscular gains you’ve been wanting and working so hard for.

In order to prevent this, it’s important to have a pre-bed snack of a slowly digested protein such as casein5 in order to improve protein synthesis rates and ensure that your net protein balance stays in the green.

Here are some top tips for using late night protein snacks as a training aid:

  • A predominantly casein protein is the best type of protein for the pre-bed snack.
  • Adding some honey and mixing it with skimmed milk will also help you sleep better.
  • Avoid a large snack or a carbohydrate rich snack. You want to increase your muscle synthesis rate, not your fat storage rate.

Get Results

The post-workout and the non-workout times are the most researched and possibly the most important times to make dietary, supplement and recovery changes in order to amplify your gains. By following these tips as well as tips for enhancing your pre-workout and intra-workout ‘windows of opportunity’, you will be armed with plenty of tools to help build the body you want.


1. Benjamin T. Wall, Francis B. Stephens, Luc J.C. van Loon, Dumitru Constantin-Teodosiu, Ian A. Macdonald & Paul L. Greenhaff (2011): Reduced fat oxidation during high intensity, submaximal exercise: is the availability of carnitine important?, European Journal of Sport Science, DOI:10.1080/17461391.2011.630103
2. Leeder J, Gissane C, van Someren K, Gregson W, Howatson G. ‘Cold water immersion and recovery from strenuous exercise: a meta-analysis.’ Br J Sports Med. 2012 Mar;46(4):233-40. Epub 2011 Sep 22.
3. Ranchordas MK, Burd N, Senchina DS, Burke LM, Stear SJ, Castell LM. ‘A-Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance--Part 29.’ Br J Sports Med. 2012 Feb;46(2):155-6.
4. Devi P., Meera R., Chithambaranathan N., Kameswari B., Badmanaban R. "Diuretic and antimicrobial activity of methanolic extract of Petroselinum cripsum leaves" International Journal of PharmTech Research 2010 2:1 (228-231)
5. Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM, van Loon LJ. ‘Protein Ingestion Prior To Sleep Improves Post-Exercise Overnight Recovery.’ Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Feb 9. [Epub ahead of print]

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