December 3, 2020
Regardless of where you are in your fitness journey, it’s important to know what to eat after a workout. Whether it’s a post-workout snack or meal, what you eat and drink shortly afterwards can have a huge impact on your workout recovery, including muscle repair and the amount of soreness you experience.
Eating and drinking the right macronutrients like carbs, protein and healthy fats within 2 hours of your workout can help you get the most out of it. After all, you’ve invested the time and sweat equity, so make it count.
During exercise, especially strength training, your muscle fibers tear and use up the glycogen stores and amino acids in your muscles.
Foods and drinks rich in complex carbohydrates (read: not just sugary stuff with empty calories), protein and healthy fats help your body repair muscle tissue (muscle protein synthesis) as well as replace micronutrients important for maintaining and improving the function of other bodily processes.
Many of these foods are also some of the best brain foods that can help improve brain function.
But the tough part can be figuring out what to eat after a workout to build muscle or what to eat after a workout to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight.
We’ve got some general recommendations for you, although it’s important to understand that bodies, diets and exercise regimens work differently together in different combinations. It’s important to find out what’s right for you.
Whether your goals include weight loss, muscle growth, overall wellness or a combination, be sure to consult your doctor and/or a registered dietitian or nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the most out of your food, drink and physical activity.
Some basic categories of important macronutrients needed for refueling after a workout include:
- Protein can be found in a variety of foods and drinks such as lean meats like chicken as well as beans, eggs, fish, nuts and nut butters, milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. On average, you’ll want to consume about 15–25 grams of protein after a workout. Protein powders and protein shakes such as whey protein are also good sources.
- Complex carbs often contain vital nutrients and fiber. Complex carbohydrates also include starches, which are naturally occurring sugars that the body processes into glucose to regulate blood sugar. Refined sugars, on the other hand, provide empty calories and little or no nutritional value. Complex carbs can be found in foods such as whole grain bread, whole wheat bread, cereal, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, granola and sweet potatoes, and fruits like apples, bananas and berries.
- Healthy fats include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. These “good” fats help the body absorb nutrients and provide calories for energy. The most common foods containing healthy fats include nuts and nut butters, fish (salmon, tuna, etc.), avocados and others. Foods like nuts and nut butters like peanut butter, as you probably noticed, deliver in all three categories.
Best Post-Workout Foods
Maybe you don’t have time for a high-quality post-workout meal and you just need something quick to get you on to the next item on your to-do list. Here are a few quick and easy ways to get your complex carbs, protein and healthy fats as efficiently and deliciously as possible. These are some of the best foods for replenishing your energy stores when you’re on the go.
Protein + complex carbohydrates = a great post-workout reward.
Chocolate milk is said to be one of the best post-workout recovery “foods” because it delivers protein, carbohydrates and fats. Never in our wildest childhood dreams did we think such articles would exist. Yet here we are.
Protein, fiber (complex carbohydrates) and healthy fats packed into one powerful and tasty bar.
This protein bar wears its ingredients on its sleeve. As with any good protein bar, the RXBar brings the protein, carbs and healthy fats in a handy carrying case.
All the macronutrients you need, and all of the flavor, too. And don’t forget to wash it down with a post-exercise beverage with some giddyup, like the ones below.
Drinking enough water throughout the day is as important as your post-workout nutrition. Exercising without replenishing fluids can lead to muscle cramping and dehydration. Begin hydration well before you begin working out. Catching back up during a workout is difficult and unlikely, so it’s important to hydrate before, during and after your workout.
Most often, water is the best option to stay hydrated. If you’ve been active at high intensity for an extended period of time, sports drinks like Bolt24 can help you rehydrate and replenish electrolytes.
Here are some additional options to give you a post-workout boost.