Post Workout Nutrition
The basic goal of weight training for mass gain is to force the muscles to break themselves down (catabolism) and then rebuild (anabolism). When the workout provides sufficient trauma to the muscles, small tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissue are created. In the hours and days following the workout, the muscles will attempt to rebuild themselves and become stronger and better able to deal with such trauma in the future. This process is called adaptation.
Notice that I said they will ""attempt"" to rebuild themselves to be stronger. In order to accomplish this goal, they need to be provided the raw materials to do the job - They need good post-workout nutrition.
The muscles need carbohydrates to replace their drained fuel sources (muscle glycogen) and they need protein to begin the rebuilding process. The better the materials you provide them, the better work they will be able to do. The sooner you get them the materials, the sooner they can get started.
The goal of proper post-workout nutrition is to quickly and efficiently refuel the muscles and then provide them with the raw materials they need to rebuild themselves to be bigger and stronger.
For mass gain, a good goal is to try and make your post-workout meal about 15-25% of your total daily caloric goal (if your diet calls 3,000 calories a day, your post-workout meal would be about 450-750 calories). It should contain a quality carb mixture and a quality protein source.
A sports drink is a good first step in post-workout nutrition. It will act to quickly replace energy stores, replace lost nutrients and also create an insulin spike more on the importance of insulin. High glycemic index fruit or fruit juice can also address this need as well as some ""creatine plus"" products and other bodybuilding supplements made expressly for this purpose.
Providing the body with a quality protein source is the next thing on the post-workout nutrition agenda and it should follow the first step as quickly as possible. A liquid source is ideal because it can be processed and utilized by the body quicker. Whey protein powders, certain meal replacements and weight gainers can fill the bill.
Studies have shown that time is truly of the essence, the sooner the body is provided with these materials the quicker it will exit its catabolic state and enter an anabolic state (the less muscle you will lose and the quicker you will start building new muscle).
Following your workout, consume your post-workout nutrition meal as soon as your stomach and schedule will allow it. This can vary by individual. Generally, the longest you want to go is 90 minutes post exercise but ideally you would want it within the first 30 minutes. The resulting muscle gains you experience as a result of your workout can possibly be dramatically affected by how quick you are able to re-supply the body with muscle building nutrition.
The post-workout meal should be heavy on protein and carbohydrates. While protein builds muscle, do not forget the important role carbohydrates play in the process. By providing an insulin spike, carbs provide the body with an excellent transport system for the nutrients to reach the muscle cells. The insulin release and the sensitivity of the muscle cells (caused by the trauma of intense weight training) is also the reason most recommend taking creatine at this time.
In short, there is no other time that the muscles are as receptive to being fed as in the post-workout period. Bodybuilders often refer to this as their ""free time,"" a time when they can eat anything and not have to worry about it turning into fat. The muscle cells are incredibly hungry for nutrition and will suck up all you can give them, lessening the chance that fat cells will instead be the recipients of the provided nutrients.