Jason had a great question that I receive fairly frequently:
Hey Robb I’ve been zoning for a little over a month now, body comp has never been better, I have no problems with energy throughout the day and I continue to PR on most things but performance has not taken off like you say it should. I feel like I’m losing strength, as weird as it sounds, even though I continue to PR a little I can feel strength decreasing (i.e. some exercise just aren’t as smooth and I’m hitting muscle failure quicker than I was a few months ago). I’ve read 42 Ways and most of your diet stuff on here. I know about moving most of your carbs to the PWO meal and moving the fat from the PWO and spread it out the rest the day (I’m sure you’re tired of explaining that alot). But I’m not sure what exactly in detail I should include in my PWO meal (other than yams and apples that you mentioned in 42 Ways). I feel that the PWO meal is very important bc I think recovery is the most important aspect of training. If it’s not too much trouble could you go into a little detail about exactly what foods are good to put into PWO and why? I greatly apprectiate it.
There are two things that need to be tackled here, the first is PWO food recommendations, the second is the strength issue.
The idea of a PWO meal containing carbs (and protein) is to take advantage of a period of time in which the muscles are particularly insulin sensitiveve. We can fly nutrients into the muscle “under the radar” via a mechanism called “non insulin mediated glucose transport”. Amino acids are also taken in during this time and may play a synergistic role in both glycogen repletion but also decreasing inflammation that accompanies hard training. Said another way, you recover from exertion faster. So, what should ya eat? We actually want a starchy carb as our primary carb. Yams and sweet potatoes are great options as they are also highly nutritious. Fruit should be used sparingly in this meal if one is focused on optimized glycogen repletion as fructose refills liver glycogen first, and once liver glycogen is full we up-regulate the lipogenic activity of the liver and start down the road towards fat gain and insulin resistance.
I know James Fitzgerald (OPT) has used a mixture of mashed sweet potato and apple sauce for PWO meal…getting just a bit of hepatic (liver) glycogen repletion with the lions share going to the muscles. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top to enhance insulin sensitivity and you are set. Why do the mixture? Perhaps James will chime in on this but for me a simple answer would be palatability and taste. If you just received an ass-kicking, stuffing food down your pie-hole may not be that appealing. Something yummy could certainly make that easier.
Why not shakes? I’ve not found them to be superior to solid food, I have noticed they make people fat. A new paper just came out comparing milk & cereal (shitty food) to a PWO shake (also shitty food) and the milk+cereal beat the shake with regards to glycogen repletion. Go figure. I’d wager salmon and sweet potatoes would be even better…not likely to see that study!
The PWO window is most potent immediately after a WO and drops off to about 50% efficacy by 30 min, and pretty much back to baseline by an hour. If you train at night, just try to get that meal in immediately after training and keep an eye out for fat gain around the mid-section. If thyis happens, dial back your carbs.
There is a reality that getting really lean will decrease your absolute strength. We loose a bit of intramuscular fat that improves leverage and it just tends to take a little off the top end of things like squats and DL’s. You can still have great absolute strength and your relative strength will greatly improve…but if you are leanign out you almost inevitabley will see those top-end numbers come dwon a bit as compared to running just a bit heavier. Also, I’m assuming you are ramped up to a 5x fat, athlete’s Zone diet.
I was wondering what you should eat PWO if you’re strict Paleo (no sweet potatoes)? What types of Paleo foods do you recommend for recovery?
sweet potato is fine under paleo guidelines.
Do you recommend a PWO meal after any CrossFit WOD? Or, should one adjust a PWO meal relative to the kind of WOD (strength, metcon, aerobic, or whatever). Don’t different kinds of workout have different affects on glycogen depletion?
Why not sweet potatoes with whey for a PWO mush?
Also, what about stevia for palatability and taste or does it throw off insulin?
Yep, adjust according to training level. Whey & sweet potatoes sounds nasty, go for it if you like. Stevia is for hippies!
How do you feel about post workout protein bars? Since im in college quality food in short time is tough. The bars are gluten and sugar free. They have about 36 grams of carbs and 20g of protein. What do ya think? I wish sweet potatoes was an option, but it really is not. Any other sugesstions?
In a pinch you just need to run with what’s handy. You can however microwave the taters and tote them with…cna even mashc them. Obviously however, the bar is WAY easier.
Jason Arp says
Robb thanks for the reply I greatly appreciate it. Bought a big bag of sweet potatoes today to give it a go. I’ll be at the Atlanta nutrition cert in january. Really looking forward to it so I’ll see you there. Thanks again
I was a hippie – a very very longtime ago 😉
Margie Lempert says
Robb – as someone with a propensity for turning orange from overindulgence in orange foods (very sad), how do you feel about foods like parsnip, rutabaga, turnips and beets for PWO alternatives?
This was a great post, by the way. Love the specificity.
Those other root veggies are perfect!
Does the PWO meal vary according to different types/intensity of workouts? I feel completely thrashed after a metcon, and carbs feel appropriate there, but I’m less sure about strength workouts like 5×5’s or even a climbing session, when my heart rate hasn’t gone up that much (relatively speaking) and I don’t feel as wasted. Is a high-carb meal still appropriate?
Yep, you got it! match carbs to training volume/intensity. Strength work needds little above the baseline.
Hippies, that is funny to me. You sound like CCT Joey.
I’ve been using my own post-WOD shake for ages but your comments are giving me pause for thought. I usually have something like blueberries, half a banana, shredded coconut, healthy fats and (more hippy food) hemp protein. I’m probably still around 7% BF these days so there’s no problem with fat storage but I’d be interested in trying the yam route post-WOD. The only thing is I’d prefer not to have to sit and chew after I’ve busted out a Fran or Helen so the smoothie seems more palatable. Any thoughts on my smoothie? It’s one of 2 or 3 I use regularly but fruit and hemp protein are the base for all 3.
Sounds like what you are doing is working great…you could always tinker with solid foods, but otherwise it’s just finding what works.
I assume eating bananas in my PWO meal is not ideal based on this guideline form above.
“Fruit should be used sparingly in this meal if one is focused on optimized glycogen repletion as fructose refills liver glycogen first, and once liver glycogen is full we up-regulate the lipogenic activity of the liver and start down the road towards fat gain and insulin resistance.”
Would oatmeal be a better choice?
I think bananas work just fine.
Kristy Amory says
Would bananas work as a starchy carb PWO? Sometimes they are easier to grab when in a rush…
Also, Mark’s Daily Apple http://www.marksdailyapple.com/muscle-building-and-carbs/ recently had a post on PWO nutrition, but it seemed to emphasize protein and omega-3s PWO and didn’t like an overabundance of carbs. What is your take on this?
Thank you again for sharing your brain with us! We really appreciate your help and your precious time. 🙂
I think the banana is fine. Obviously very convenient. Regarding Marks post, it’s a different emphasis. If we are really looking at performance, we have to do those PWO carbs…no two ways about it. This would be for someone following a CrossFit type program. I mentioned in another comment that we cna shift our emphasis to health/longevity and this can perhaps be better served by a low carb PWO meal. I’m going to look at these trade-offs in a follow-up post.
I tried to post this comment at lunch today, but it never posted, so I’ll try again. After workouts, I enjoy chocolate milk and a banana while I’m cooking my post WOD meal, which usually consists of eggs, sweet potatoes, and onions. What are your thoughts on the chocolate milk and banana? Should I ditch them?
Sorry for the tardiness getting back to the comments…just overwhelmed at times! I think that combo works great for some folks…I think it would knock me on my ass! If you are satisfied with your leanness, have no joint pain etc I think it’s good to go. You might try doing a “purely paleo” approach with protein, sweet potato/banana and see how that rolls. You just need to tinke rwith this stuff!
tony young says
You bastard! Why didn’t you tell me how important loading up the carbs PWO is? How my performance and mass gain would improve? How much better my recovery would be?
Oh, wait…you did. And I didn’t pay attention all that time. Sorry, my bad…
All seriousness aside, it’s made a world of difference to follow your recommendations. I’m finally on my way to a respectable weight and decent performance. Thanks a bunch.
PS “Stevia is for hippies” – fantastic!
Now there’s a blast from the past! Great to hear from you Tony!
Cheryl M says
First off love your site. Have read most of your CF articles on Zone and nutrition in general. This was a very helpful post, just have one question. I fast most days with a 5 hour window for food. Currently, my window is 2:00 – 7:00 pm, fits into my schedule well. However, my CF workouts are in the morning usually early, so in order to get the most from a PWO meal would it be wise to adjust my eating window? I’m not a fire breather and in general don’t have any complaints regarding my performance.
Thanks for your time.
I’m going to tackle this in more depth in a PWO 2 post, but the bottom line is if we are REALLY focused on recovery and or performance that PWO meal is critical. If we have a bit more of a longevity and health bias I think the way you are doing it (or just a low carb PWO meal) is a better option. I’ll go into the why’s in that other post, but for now it sounds like you have a good system going, I’d run with that until you either want to tinker with things or feel like the current program is not meeting your goals.
Thanks for the reply, Robb. I am certainly not concerned about leanness, I’ve always been SBSWTBH. The extra “S” is for “sometimes”. I do have joint pain quite often, though. I wasn’t sure if you were suggesting that milk might cause joint pain. I eat almost a purely paleo diet right now (I think the chocolate milk might be my only non-paleo food, and I only drink that PWO).
WHAT THE FUNK!!
I walked into my crossfit cert and was almost punched in the face for holding a banana, now you say they’re good??? dude!… but… huh?
Zone say unfavorable
Glycemic index say no no
Robb says ok
im so confused. do you know how many people ive gotten to stop eating bananas? how many people hate me for that??
Im driving up tomorrow to flagstaff and sleeping in my car, il be in the front row with the Mcdonalds bag. I NEED help robb!! aaaaahhhh =(
PWO nutrition the lowly bananna is good to go. Give the Feeding The Machine series for some fire-breathers use of PWO nutrition. The Zone is not the end-all-be-all of nutrition.
Good stuff Rob! In regards to quantity for PWO meal? Just stay with the blocks for Protein/carbs?
Zane Hoare says
You say bananas are Ok. Does that mean that the Fructose content of a Banana is lower than that of other fruit (eg apples, oranges, pears)? Do they have the same weight gain around the mid section possibilities of other fruit? I’ve been mashing some sweet potato and eating that with some chicken after my workouts. A banana would often be mush more convenient as I wouldn’t have to heat it up and sometimes after a hard met con I really struggle to get the mash down.
I’d still prefer the Spotato PWO but play with the banana and just see how it goes.
Petr R. says
I’m not from US so don’t hit me 🙂 is cereal the same as oatmeal ? Today morning I’ve read great interview with powerlifter Matt Kroczaleski (http://gregbashore.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/great-interview-with-matt-kroczaleski/). For sure he looks like a beast, he is not fat (claims single digit of BF) and for sure he is f*g strong. And he eats a lot of oatmeal for breakfast.
For years I avoided many carbs like a plague but now it looks I could perform better when I eat more carbs and not only veggies and fruit. No matter how much fat I eat when I eat simple carbs now and then I’m faster and stronger as well. I’m not gaining weight at all but I’m better in WODs so I’m bit confused.
Also for Post WO meal – I could not imagine that I would be able to eat salmon and potatoes after my 30 minutes of hard 5 km row 🙂
There will be no hitting…today anyway! When I say cereal I’m thinking more processed cereal out of a box, you poor milk on it. It’s delicious, but Satan’s henchmen!
If the oatmel works for you, awesome. I just encourage people to try a gluten free approach, get those carbs from yams, fruit etc and see how you do. You have already discovered that a LOW carb diet will not make you good at crossfit…but one can find an optimum carb level without too much tinkering.
Thanks for the link, great stuff!
I just wanted to take the time to thank you for the wealth of information that you have made available. I have most definitely found your site and articles enlightening to say the least. Being an Indian male (of the South Asian variety) I have had a diet heavy in grains (particularly white rice) for most of my life, and I initially thought I had a good hold on most of this stuff being a personal trainer and an athlete (soccer). I have made an effort to be incredibly strict with diet even with my hectic college life schedule and it has certainly paid dividends. I’ve been blown away by the improvements I have seen from following the zone coupled with your advice and this is certainly evident in my performances on the Crossfit WODs. Now, if only I can get my parents to listen as type II diabetes runs in my family! Thanks again.
Than you for the kind words…always good to know my ramblings are of benefit to folks!
The Type 2 diabetes situation is becoming very concerning in India…I believe it is increasing there even more rapidly than in the states. You have your work cut out for you with your parents…there is always the plea to “try it for one month…”
Good luck and thank you again for the kind words.
The PWO post was very informative. The level of knowledge you bring to the table never ceases to amaze me.
So on the comparison to the cereal and the shakes… does that comparison hold true for all shakes? Some are obviously better than others. With me being in the military, some-times shakes are the only thing I have for an option. Granted, use what you can, but I wonder if there are different levels of quality to the multitude of shakes out there.
I’d assume differences between shakes, but my take-away from that study is that solid food just might be better than liquid food for many applications. Like you siad though, use what you can, especially if in an austere environment.
I find that it’s more like an hour PWO before I can eat- therefore I’ve been eating a ‘regular’ meal for me, 3-2-9, per 42 Ways. My carb here is usually an apple. Max carbs/day are 6-7. No major recovery issues, performance is good for now. I feel like I’ve leaned out to a point where my strength is pretty flat, but umbilical & midsection fat tend to fluctuate; now, not as lean as I’d like. I am wondering if I am sabotaging via nutrition. Sleep is pretty solid, but having a hard time getting more than 7 hours. I am 126-129lbs, bf prolly 17% or so…I’m at the point of wanting to get stronger and drop bf- how the frack does that happen? No small order, I realize…but puffing up the midsection is a deal breaker.
Well…so you are essentially at base zone, just modified to a lower carb level, yes? 10 blocks total? How much strength work are you doing? How long has it been since a week off? let me know on that stuff.
For the PWO meal how would you break a sweet Potato, Apples into blocks? Also does Sugar Alcohol count as a Carb? Thanks for the help
I’m not sure I follow you…Like ratio of apples and SP? Totally up to you, I tend to just use the apples for flavor the SP, so it’s likely something long the lines of 2 blocks apples/6-10 blocks of SP…just guessing here, never really measured it.
Not sure on the sugar alcohols….I think some do elicit an insulin response, but they do NOT add to glycogen…erythritol is good for your teeth…not really my area of expertise!
I am 12B, 2x fat; meals are typically 3-2-9, with 1-0-5 snacks, pretty tight Paleo. Strength work follows the typical 3 wk rotation, with some thrown in daily WOD’s; I am 5d/wk. Jason Cobb, my coach (who is coming to Cherry Point Dec 6-7)and I have discussed emphasizing more strength work in place of our daily WODs… No weeks off from WODs, unless travel…in which case I find something to do, usually run…but basically solid daily cf training, with a 5K on weekends/off days. Also, have been adding cyclic weekly bw/weighted/monostruc work on a 6 wk rotation, as well as pyramid cyclic running each week. Staying lean is my priority; but getting my 470 Total to 500 would be sweeeet…..I also know I may not be able to have both….yes?
If you want to be lean, and strong, I think you are doing WAAAAAY to much. Cut out the 5K’s, take more time off. Lift heavy, make sure you are sleeping. You will lean out AND get stronger. You will still kick ass at the 5K too 😉
I’ve been thinking about your post concerning the pwo meal. I was curious to know, based on some of the questions that you’ve already answered, about metcons vs. heavy lift days. You said scaling the carb intake to match the level of training is what would dictate your intake of carbs. How does that factor in to the energy pathway’s that are described in a few of the CF journals? If I understand right, your workout’s, where the emphasis was on heavy lifting, you would be utilizing more of the phosphogenic pathway correct? How does that tie in to the glycogen replenishment that you described? Is there a difference then in the pwo meal to best accomodate recovery?
If we are just ahmmering in the ATP/CP pathway (1-10 sec) we can replenish that stuff with just fat metabolism. And we will if we are nto insulin resistant. If we are stretching things out to 30-180 sec we are in the glycolytic pathway which is all glycogen fueled and thus REALLY benefits from a larger PWO carb intake.
Brian Vayda says
Quick question, I love sweet potatos as part of a PWO meal but got in an argument with my brother who says becasue they are so low on the glycemic index, they aren’t giving me the insulin response I need post workout. What are your thoughts on this and the glycemic index.
Your brother needs to figure out the glycemic index of foods. Then he needs to try this and actually speak from experience!
Jason Arp says
Hey Robb quick follow up on my original question (everything has been working great by the way…strength and metcon numbers are through the roof). I know you advocate solid food instead of PWO whey protein and all that and it makes sense to use natural food instead of manufactured powder but the protein powders have added all these amino acids that would be beneficial to the muscles after a WOD. All the lean meats we eat are, of course, missing one or a few of the amino acids keeping them from being a perfect protein source. I guess I’m just a little confused how animal protein sources that may be missing certain AA’s is better than protien sources that has all the AA’s added into it (like whey). So my question is if I have a PWO meal requiring 5 blocks of protein, would it be a good idea to make each of those 5 blocks a different lean meat? That way, in theory, the amino acid(s) that eggs are missing may be covered by the amino acid(s) in red meat, which also in turn may be missing an amino acid(s) that chicken or fish has and so forth, blah blah. This is something I’ve been brainstorming for a little while. Does this sound like it would work and which meats are the one I need to include in my 5 blocks to make sure I get all those AA’s i need? Yeah so that ended up not being quick at all…sorry..but I greatly appreciate your help.
Play with the whey…see if you like it. Most folks have simply reported liking the effects of solid food over liquid. OPT is sending me a whey/carb PWO mix he wants me to try…I’ll let everyone know how that goes. This is not some kind of “purest” stance, simply what I have seen work the best.
As to the AA’s…meat is typically quite complete. Whether it works better than whey+BCAA’s etc…not so sure, but worth tinkering with!
Jason Arp says
So play with both and see what happens? Hey makes sense and works for me. Thank you sir
Rob F. says
After hearing mark Rippetoes Suggestion and the controversial two sided line on Milk, i was wondering what your opinion on Milk is..
My second question is on supplementing creatine. I have a bottle of Creatine Ethyl Ester and was wondering if you knew about its effects on the Zone and actual performance enhancement. Thanks
I need to do a post on milk, but in short, I view it as a tool, a fairly powerful one that can have great benefit and also large problems. It spikes insulin and is a growth promoter…that may not be great in certain situations.
Creatine is great…if you are a responder. Some folks are not. Stick with the cheap mono-hydrate.
Thanks for the article! I’ve been on the zone diet for a few weeks w/ good results. I’m on strict Zone with 2x fat. However I notice a decrease in my strength and performance just recently. I get light-headed during my surf session and don’t last as long as I used to. My crossfit results have decreased also. However, I usually feel good throughout the day, and my recovery is better than before, I credit this to the fish oils. I’m gonna try this PWO and see how it goes in terms of strength.
I wonder how long a typical workout you’re talking about here? I sometimes do an hr of yoga right after WOD. My WOD is usually 15-20 mins. I’m afraid that by the time I finish with my yoga, that “window” has closed.
Just do you best with that…if recovery/performance is of paramount value you need to optimize things. otherwise you are good to go.
I drink a whey protein shake and have a banana/apple within 30mins of my workout, then I try and eat around an hour later when I’m able to cook.
Would it be okay to eat normal potatoes in this meal, or do they have to be sweet? What’s you opinion on eating pasta and rice during this same period. Of course I’m human and hence try and create some variety in my meals so ideally I don’t want to be eating exactly the same things on every workout day (4-5 times a week).
I’m fairly muscular and not fat, but I’ve just started to try and get my fat % down so I can see my abs etc.
Thanks in advance for any response.
Robb Wolf says
Give my post on PWO nutrition a read, also Mat’s post. First podcast also. If you are looking to lean out I think you are headed in the wrong direction.
I’m kind of a nutjob on the gluten thing so you will not likely see me ever endorse pasta.
Check out opt’s blog and get a sense of what they are up to with regards to leanness and PWO fueling.
Hey Robb are sweet potatoes paleo and are they the best thing for a pwo meal?
Robb Wolf says
They are fantastic for a PWO meal IF the individual is LEAN. Check out soem of my post on PWO.
I checked out your post for PWO and noted that you love sweet potatoes PWO. I am pretty lean,and wouldnt mind getting a tiny bit leaner and stronger. Would adding sweet potato for breakfast and PWO be a trigger to put on fat? I am very active and do CF and strength 5 days a week. Thanks
Hey Robb, I saw in your posts that you love sweet potatoes for PWO. I am pretty lean and very active. I do strength and CF 5 days a week and sometimes workout twice a day since I work at a health club. I wanted to maybe eat a sweet potato in morning and one PWO. My goals are to get slightly leaner and stronger. Would doing that make me prone to put on unwanted fat?
Hey robb I cf and strength train.6 days a week and am pretty lean and active .I wanna get slightly leaner and stronger would it be ideal to have a sweet potato for breakfast and pwo or would that cause excess fat ?
Robb Wolf says
I think it would be fine, especially given your output. Keep in mind, leanness is tough if workload is very high…
Thanks robb why would you say leanness would be tough ?
Robb Wolf says
Too much volume.
Thanks for the input Robb. What would you recommend doing just CF 6 days a week? I normally do three strength exercises and then do a met con. then the next day i do just a met con, and then the day after i do strength and met con and then take a rest day completely and so on and so on?
For a paleo challenge coming up my gym may not allow yams/sweet potatoes pwo. Is there any alternative that under strict paleo would be just as good? Banana or other root vegetable? or are bananas too high glycemically?. thanks.
hemp oil says
I am not sure the place you are getting your information, however great topic. I needs to spend a while learning more or figuring out more. Thank you for great information I used to be looking for this information for my mission.
Randal Hermes says
Been a follower for quite some time. My daughter, 22 yoa, is involved in a dance program which entails intense practices Mon – Fri evenings, 5:30p – 10p. I would appreciate some help in recommending a basic nutrition support program for her. She is usually pretty famished following the practice, which is problematic since it is 10p or so. Thanks in advance and keep up the great work!!!
Amy Kubal says
I would love to help your daughter with a nutrition plan! Let me know what I can do [email protected] – http://robbwolf.com/about/team/amy-kubal/
I have a question regarding the Post WO window; when exactly does it start to close? Does it have to do with heart rate? Resistance? Or some other factor unbeknownst to me? For instance if I start with olympic lifts, take brief 10-15 break, then perform a metcon WOD, then immediately do some GHD sit-ups, extensions, et cetera, when does my window close?
I recently have been reading articles biologist Ray Peat and he is advocating sugar over starch for post workout nutrition. I was wondering if you had a chance to read any of his articles. He essentially wants a diet that increases thyroid functionality and metabolism. With this new information, are you still advocating starches as the optimal PWO carb? Love your pod casts. Finally some real dudes that also know strength training in addition to Nutrition! Would love to hear your thoughts on this as I am a starch guy currently and truly dont feel a difference between the two. I love eating some fish (canned mackeral, and two jars of sweet potato baby food after a workout) Thanks, Joe [email protected]
Hey thanks for the great post, paleo diet is a great way to keep healthy. Thank you again The paleo lunch ideas site.
I tried OPT’s PWO mix – it was quite possibly one of the most delicious things i’ve ever eaten, and I now feel great. Thanks to OPT for creating that and Robb for sharing it