Post-Workout Replenishment For Weight Training
To create a herculean body, you cannot eat like a chain-smoking super model
Kaz and Jon Paul, OG buffet terrorists. “Hi! We’re here for the all-you-can-eat Buffet. We’ll need a table for ten!” Buffet owners didn’t want these two and their friends as regulars. Kaz weighs 320, Jon Paul 305. You can bet it took a mountain of food to keep these two fed. Kaz once said, “Milk is everything!”
There is an interesting history behind the theory and practice of post-workout replenishment for weight training. Nowadays post-workout replenishment is reduced to neat like shakes and supplements. That is not how it started out. No one gave a lot of thought to the idea of using calories to accelerate recovery and fuel muscle growth before the early iron pioneers, the powerlifting champions of the 60s, 70s and 80s, blazed the replenishment trail. Powerlifting was formalized in the mid-1960s. Participants became aware that the lifters that were dominating were extremely thick and dense in relation to their height.
Olympic weightlifters like Yurik Vardanian had whippet-lean physiques and dominated the world. In powerlifting, size and power were everything: tall thin people never become powerlifting champions. Everyone seriously into powerlifting was trying to push their bodyweight upward, seeking more thickness, more muscle size, better leverage, it all equated to big lifts.
After a bar-bending, ball-busting, record-setting, endorphin-releasing, emotionally crazed training session where the lifter gives 102% and is, post session, physically shattered, the natural post-workout inclination is to head to a nearby restaurant, preferably an all-you-can-eat buffet, and stuff your face. Experience teaches that the only way to cope with twice weekly session pounding is to slam calories and rest like a hibernating bear. Because they worked at it, these men, the early power pioneers, had awe-inspiring culinary capacities. Their motto: “To beat the man, you must out-eat the man.”
Keep in mind, as you are titillated or disgusted by these routine feats of gluttony, that these men were routinely blasting their bodies to smithereens, several times a week, with poundage normal humans have no frame of reference for. Without a massive influx of post-workout calories, these men could not recover in time for the next body-shattering session. The mind-boggling weights these men were routinely handling in training put stresses on their bodies beyond the imaginings of normal humans.
Mark Chaillet told me the greatest powerlifter of the 1970s, Larry Pacifico, would routinely order three steak dinners for lunch every day at the Sizzler chain steak house in Dayton. Larry was a shapeshifter, able to set world records at 198, 220 or 242-pounds. Pacifico stood all of 5-5. The classic elite powerlifting scenario was to train together - then go eat together.
Naturally when a group of high-level lifters want post-workout replenishment, they need volume. Ergo, a good all-you-can-eat buffet is the eternal top choice of the iron elite. There exists a symbiotic relationship between intense exercise and copious caloric consumption: the end result is “supercompensation.” Here are a few acts of heroic supercompensation I have witnessed…
- The one-man plague of locust: Joey was intent on pushing his bodyweight ever upward. At six-foot-even he weighed 340 and was tight and athletic, not fat, or sloppy. Seven days a week he would eat lunch or dinner (or some days both) at the same local buffet. This was a high-volume, super busy buffet with excellent (for a buffet) food. Nobody paid attention to the massive 24-year-old on his endless trips for more food-fuel. No one noticed or cared when he slipped on sunglasses and with a cup of coffee sitting to his right appeared to be reading the newspaper when in fact, he was taking a 40-minute nap, a respite before reawaking and hitting the buffet a few more times.
- “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!” We found an excellent Chinese buffet less than ten minutes from Mark Chaillet’s Temple Hills gym. A group of us would make our way over there after the Monday or Thursday training sessions. This buffet had excellent Szechuan cooking, the first we’d ever experienced. The owner was a skinny, dour looking dude that chain smoked unfiltered Camel cigarettes while his daughters and wife did all the work. Into our third week he wandered over to the table and addressed us, “You guys no come back no more.” One of the boys took offense up. “It says ‘all you can eat!’” he yelled, pointing at the menu. The owner flicked his cigarette ash on our table and said, “And THAT is ALL YOU CAN EAT!” We left in a disgruntled huff. I immediately wondered if he’d let me back in if I came back alone.
- Balancing the Van: In 1989 I lifted in a competition in Scranton and my four training partners, 360-pound Ken Fantano, 420-pound Jean Donat, 280-pound Danny D’Arrico (all three 600-pound raw benchers and 900-squatters) and 220-pound Marty drove from West Haven to Scranton in my company van: a 4-cylinder 120-horsepower Dodge Caravan. Ken insisted on driving. “Jean and I have to sit on opposite sides. If he sits behind me and we hit a sharp turn, this thing will tip over.” We ate at a buffet at the end of a long trip. Fantano took two trays and loaded them to the max. I had never seen a man take four giant baked potatoes. It was rib night, and they were excellent. By meal’s end the table was a small animal boneyard. As I surveyed the carnage, I thought. what fool would offer us all-you-can-eat ribs for $9.95??
- The Big Fish: I trained at Mark’s for six years. At various times we would get on extended kicks. For example: I discovered the most incredible Hunan whole crispy fish at the Szechuan Palace in China town. Mark loved the crispy, spicy fish in brown sauce as much as I did. We would travel over together, as many as six lifters, all ordering their own fish. Post-workout the food and beer tasted incredible. On one occasion, somehow, I spilled a flaming 120-proof rum drink on Mark’s arm. He began waving his arm, making the flames worse. I doused his arm with water from my glass. All I could think was Mark as “FIRE BAD!” Frankenstein. If pushed for time, after training we would get triple orders of fish and chips (with the excellent veleta-like cheese sauce) at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, three blocks from the gym.
- Got Milk? Post-workout at Hugh Cassidy’s power gym and in later years after training sessions with Kirk Karwoski and Bobby Myers at Maryland Athletic Club, it was standard operating procedure to sit together and drink cold whole milk. After a slaughter-fest session at Hugh’s, we’d stumble to our parked cars and open the coolers we all had. We would extract our quarts or half gallons of milk and lounge and bullshit till the cold whole milk stopped our bodies from shaking. Maryland Athletic Club was located in a strip mall with a convenience store thirty feet from the gym. There was a picnic table under an awning: after every training session Bobby and I drank our post-workout milk and hold court. Mr. Maryland, Frank Nicter would hang out or Kirk, or a half-dozen other lifters, all would drop by to down milk and gossip.
- Chuck’s steaks: Chuck was on unemployment and wanted to make the most of it by training every day and building his bronze tan poolside at his above-ground pool. I like to train early. He would roll by, and we would crack it hard and long early, trying to beat the summer heat. Sweat-drenched, exhausted, we would wobble from the oven-like garage to my kitchen where I make incredible tasting Parrillo protein powder and whole milk shakes, ice-cold monsters, containing 60 grams of protein, 80 grams of carb and 40 grams of raw milk fat – plus a dash of lactose to trigger a purposeful insulin spike. That was for starters. Before the end of the training session, I had fired up the Weber grill. While he finished his shake on the deck, I threw two seasoned pound-plus rib steaks ($3.99 a pound, superb quality) on the 600-degree coals. Two perfectly cooked and rested steaks ready within 15-minutes. For me, this was my favorite and (coupled with a post-meal power nap) the single most effective replenishment strategy I have ever experienced.
What could be more logical, more appealing, more deserved, and comforting than a fine giant meal with your iron comrades after a body shattering workout? Who could argue with the front-end logic or the backend empiricism: results obtained from a truly herculean workout are improved with post-workout replenishment, i.e., more muscle is built, more power and strength attained if the athlete replenishes amply post-workout. Powerlifters paved the way. Bodybuilders refined and streamlined post-workout replenishment. Whereas powerlifters ate like wild bears, bodybuilders asked, ‘what’s the least we can get by with. The harder you train; the more important replenishment becomes.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.