I love talking about the importance of eating well! Following a healthy, balanced diet can help improve your energy levels, keep unwanted weight off, and contribute to you feeling your best.
One part of a healthy diet and fitness routine is eating well after you work out. You might notice that exercising makes you feel extra hungry, fatigued, and in need of nutrients.
In this blog post, I’ll explain why post-workout nutrition is so important, when to eat after your workout, and what you should be eating after exercise.
Why Post-Workout Nutrition Is so Important
When you exercise, you use up a lot of your body’s energy. You burn calories, use up some of your glycogen stored in muscles, and (especially after a strength workout) tear some of the protein in your muscles. It’s important to eat after working out so that you can rebuild some of what your body just gave up during the workout!
Eating after you workout, will help your body:
- Repair its muscles, especially if you’ve been doing resistance training
- Restore its glycogen levels
- Improve recovery, which can also prevent muscle soreness
- Get better at burning body fat
- Develop better bone mass and grow larger muscles
- Improve its immune function
If you skip eating after a workout, your body won’t be able to recover as quickly. You’ll feel extra tired and might experience low blood sugar. You might even feel:
- Like your body is shaking
- Extra sweaty (even after you’ve cooled off from exercise)
- Nervous or anxious
- Irritable and confused
If you consistently skip eating after a workout, you might even prevent your body from reaching your fitness goals because you’ll be preventing your muscles from repairing itself in a timely fashion. You can also struggle from muscle soreness and general fatigue.
When Should You Eat After a Workout?
In general, you should try to eat about 30 minutes after your workout, especially if your workout was intense. But I know that showering, changing, and preparing food can take time after exercising. Because of this, I always suggest trying to eat something within 90 minutes of finishing a walk or a fasted morning routine but sooner is better if you can. :)
In general, research suggests that your muscles will be able to replenish and repair best the sooner you eat. In fact, after exercising, your blood flow will also be faster, which will help the macronutrients from your food reach your muscles sooner.
How to Make Sure You Eat After Working Out
Getting a meal after a workout can be challenging, especially if you live a busy lifestyle. Here are a few ways to integrate your meal schedule with your fitness routine:
- Meal prep – Figure out what you’re going to eat before you work out so that you can just grab it as soon as you’re ready. Meal prepping also keeps temptations (like burgers or pizza) away when you’re really, really hungry after a tough workout.
- Work out right before a meal – Try to work out before breakfast, lunch, or dinner, if you can. This helps keep you on track, and it might prevent you from overeating later in the day too.
- Don’t complicate things – Keep nuts, fruit, and protein bars accessible just in case you don’t have other food choices. Eating a healthy snack is better than nothing!
What Should You Eat After a Workout?
Eating after a workout is important for helping your body recover, but different types of foods will assist your body in different ways. Here’s what you should be eating post-workout:
Carbs are so important! Our body needs them to be able to produce energy for workouts.
How much you exercise matters too. If you work out every other day, you won’t need to focus on carbs as much as somebody who exercises once or twice a day. Eating enough carbs means that you’ll have enough energy for your next workout.
However, in general, experts recommend that you consume 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight within about 30 minutes of exercising to restore your glycogen as quickly as possible.
Try to pick carbs that are minimally processed or not processed at all. Here are a few suggestions:
- Fruit, like bananas, berries, or kiwi
- Sweet potatoes
- Rice cakes
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain pasta
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens
Eating protein after working out will give your body the amino acids it needs to repair its muscles. In general, experts recommend that you eat 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight after working out.
However, just like with carbohydrates, the amount of protein you eat can vary depending on your fitness routine and goals. If you do a lot of strength training and are trying to grow larger muscles, you’ll need to eat more protein than somebody who sticks to bodyweight resistance training and cardio.
But, even if you aren’t looking to bulk up, you need to be eating protein after a meal. Remember how eating carbs post-workout helps improve your glycogen levels? Studies show that, when you eat carbs with protein, this glycogen synthesis occurs more efficiently. In other words, everybody needs protein! In general, try to eat a ratio of 3:1 of carbs to protein.
Here are few protein suggestions:
- Protein powder (here’s how I pick protein powders)
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bar
What About Fats?
Eating fat right after you work out isn’t as important as carbs and protein, but small amounts shouldn’t be a problem.
Some types of fat might slow down your digestion and keep your body from absorbing nutrients as quickly. But, even if this occurs, it won’t reduce the benefits of the food that you’re eating. In fact, studies show that even eating high-fat meals after working out didn’t affect glycogen synthesis.
When you’re picking a post-workout meal or snack, focus on protein and carbs, but don’t worry if your meal includes some fat too. Sometimes, it can be hard to avoid finding fat-free food (especially if you’re planning on eating a full meal), and eating some fat shouldn’t hurt your recovery process.
Some good fat sources to eat include:
- Trail mix
- Full-fat Greek yoghurt
- Different types of nut butter
Some Meal Ideas
- Brown rice with boneless skinless chicken breast
- Egg scramble with vegetables and potatoes or a slice of whole-grain toast
- A smoothie with fruit and plain Greek yoghurt
- Whole grain wraps with veggies, avocado, and your choice of protein
- Banana with nut butter
- Tuna with whole-grain crackers
- Egg and whole-wheat toast
- Salmon with sweet potato
- Cottage cheese with your favourite fruits
- Vegetables with hummus
- Greek yoghurt, berries, and granola
- Cereal with milk (try to pick cereals that have been minimally processed and don’t contain too much sugar)
- Beef and vegetable stir fry with brown rice or noodles
Stay Hydrated Too!
Don’t forget to drink water after you work out too! When you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through your sweat. Electrolytes are involved in keeping your nervous system and muscles functional as well as keeping you hydrated. They help your body function properly.
Drinking fluid will help you replenish electrolytes in your body.
In general, drinking a lot of water during and after you exercise is a great way to stay hydrated. Try to pay attention to your body’s natural cues, and drink when you’re thirsty.
What do you like to eat after a workout? Let me know in the comments!
Love Rachael Xx