You put a lot of thought into the things you eat before your workout. After all, it’s important to give your body the right amount – and right type – of fuel before putting it to work. But how much consideration do you give the things you eat after your workout ends? The things you eat after you exercise are just as important as your pre-workout diet. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to post-workout nutrition. Read on to find out how you can refuel and recover after you exercise.
Why is my meal choice important after a workout?As we exercise, our bodies use up our stored proteins and glycogen. Eating the right food after our workout can help your body replenish these materials. In turn, that helps your body recover faster and improve muscle growth. In order to recover, you’ll need to consume the appropriate amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Eating an adequate level of protein following your workout provides your system with amino acids to help recover from the muscle protein breakdown you’ve experienced. Eating 20 to 40 grams of protein following a workout will maximize your recovery. Meanwhile, consuming carbs helps you replenish your glycogen levels, but the amount you’ll need will depend on the type of exercise you do. Someone who runs or swims will need more carbs than someone whose workout solely involves lifting weights. And while many people assume eating fat after a workout can prevent us from absorbing nutrients, that’s not necessarily the case. Fats can slow down nutrient absorption but won’t prevent it altogether. In the end, a post-workout meal that contains carbs and protein – at a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio – is an effective way of improving glycogen storage and muscle protein growth.
When should I eat?Our ability to replenish is heightened soon after our workout, which is why it’s a good idea to eat this post-workout meal within 45 minutes after you’re done exercising. The longer you delay, the fewer benefits you’ll get.
What should I eat?“Proteins” and “carbohydrates” cover a lot of territory, and not every protein-rich or carb-heavy food is going to be appropriate. Foods that you can digest quickly will allow you to absorb nutrients more speedily. For carbs, that means eating things like:
- Dark, leafy greens such as spinach
- Fruits like pineapples, bananas, and berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Rice or rice cakes
- Chocolate milk
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bars or animal/plant-based protein powder
- Nuts and nut butter
- Trail mix
What should I drink?In addition to getting enough post-workout nutrition, you should also make sure you stay hydrated. You lose water and electrolytes when you exercise, so replenishing them after a workout helps you recover. This is particularly important if you know you’ll be exercising again within 12 hours.
Post-workout mealsOf course, you probably won’t just sit down after your workout and eat a bunch of sweet potatoes. Here are a few quick, simple meals that can provide you with some post-workout nutrition:
- A bowl of cereal with skim milk
- A bowl of quinoa with berries and nuts
- Salmon with sweet potato
- An omelet with avocado on toast
- Pita with hummus
- Tuna salad on whole grain bread
- Grilled chicken and roasted vegetables