One of the most asked questions we get:
"What should I eat after a workout?"
Simply put, you should be consuming high-quality macros from whole food sources. Proper nutrition post workout nutrition is the key to recovery and reaching your goals.
The foods you eat are the fuel that your body runs on.
Keep reading and we'll dive deeper into proper post workout nutrition that is crucial for recovery, fuel, and performance.
- High-quality carbohydrates and protein immediately after training work to maximize muscle glycogen synthesis to rebuild and repair muscle damage.
- The best post-workout protein sources include lean meat, such as chicken and fish, beans, and high-quality protein shakes.
- Include micronutrients in your post-workout meal or snack with colorful fruits and vegetables to replenish essential vitamins and minerals lost after exercise.
WHY YOU SHOULD AND WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT AFTER A WORKOUT…
WHY: Exercise uses a lot of energy. You need to refuel.
Post-workout nutrition starts the recovery process. If you aren't consuming nutrient-dense foods after a hard workout, it may be difficult for your body to recover.
WHAT: Clean macros, micros, and electrolytes.
Optimizing nutrition with a balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and fat, as well as micronutrients and electrolytes, is key to supporting recovery and performance enhancement.
Before diving into why each nutrient is essential, here are some of the best foods to eat after a workout.
PROTEIN, CARBS, FATS, MORE PROTEIN - EAT IT!
Optimize your post-workout meal with high-quality macros.
- Grass fed Beef
- Greek Yogurt
- Hard-boiled egg
- Greek Yogurt
- Chicken Breast
- Protein Powder
- Fresh Fruit
- Sweet Potatoes
- Oats + Oatmeal
- Whole Grain Bread
- Olive oil
- Nuts + Nut Butter
Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is an easy way to get the complete range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants your body needs to refuel and recover after exercise.
- Blueberries, strawberries, goji berries
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet potatoes
Natural electrolyte sources include:
- Coconut Water: Contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Milk: Provides calcium, sodium, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Leafy Greens: Great sources of calcium and magnesium.
- Cherries: Contain high amounts of potassium and small amounts of calcium, sodium, and magnesium.
- Bone Broth: Bone broths are rich sources of phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, and calcium. You can make them at home or buy ready-to-drink options for convenience.
- Seafood: Tuna, trout, salmon, snapper, mackerel, and cod, are known to be high in potassium.
- Lentils: A good option for plant-based athletes, Lentils are great sources of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
THE IMPORTANCE OF POST WORKOUT NUTRITION
When we push ourselves to the limit during intense training sessions, our muscles become partially depleted of glycogen — the body’s preferred fuel source. Your muscle proteins also break down and become damaged.
Following a workout, your body tries to repair those muscle proteins as well as replenish its glycogen stores. Eating the right foods, particularly protein and carbohydrates, after your workout is important for replenishing glycogen stores and speeding up the recovery process.
Staying hydrated during and after exercise is just as important as your food intake. After prolonged exercise sessions, you’ll also need to replete electrolytes, such as sodium and chloride, to maintain fluid balance and prevent dehydration.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the importance of the three macronutrients, micronutrients, and electrolytes.
Whether you’re lifting to gain muscle mass, pounding the pavement like Rocky, or cutting to lean out, prioritizing protein in your post-workout meal is vital for optimal recovery.
When you work out, muscle proteins break down.
Consuming sufficient amounts of protein post-workout gives your body the essential amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also helps your body build muscle tissue.
Studies show that consuming protein before and after training sessions significantly increases muscle protein synthesis, which counteracts muscle protein breakdown due to protein loss that occurs during exercise.
Generally speaking, you should consume at least 20 grams of high-quality protein after working out. You should be consuming 1g of protein per pound of ideal body weight per day.
Glycogen stored in the muscles is used as the predominant fuel source during intense exercise. If glycogen stores are not replenished after a workout, your body may try to break down muscle to use protein as an energy source. Replenishing your glycogen stores also ensures you have enough energy to fuel your next workout.
The best way to replenish the muscle glycogen you burned during your workout is by consuming carbohydrates immediately after your training session.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes who consume 0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight (1.5 grams/kg) within 30 minutes of working out experience a higher rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis (replenishment of glycogen that has previously been broken down) than when supplementation is delayed by two hours.
Additionally, studies suggest that consuming protein along with carbohydrates can promote greater restoration of glycogen and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
While the exact amount you need can vary depending on your fitness goals, consuming carbs and proteins in a 3:1 ratio is generally recommended. This is 3 grams of carbohydrate for each 1 gram of protein. An example would be 30 grams of protein and 90 grams of carbs.
Many athletes tend to avoid fat after working out because fat delays gastric emptying. This can slow the rate at which carbohydrates enter the bloodstream and is shuttled to muscles for glycogen repletion.
However, there is no solid research to suggest avoiding fat after a workout. One study found that ingesting a high-fat meal consisting of 45% calories from fat did not impact muscle glycogen synthesis.
Another study found that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, may play a role in recovery by reducing inflammation, which can improve muscle soreness and muscle function. Adding small amounts of healthy fats to your meals can also help you feel full and satisfied.
Avoid greasy foods high in saturated fat, which can lead to an upset stomach after working out.
Vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, play a vital role in energy production, oxygen transport, maintenance of bone health, immune system function, and protection against oxidative damage caused by exercise.
During exercise, your body draws on energy from macronutrients. Micronutrients are required to use those macronutrients to fuel your workout and recovery.
Replenishing micronutrients that have been depleted during exercise is crucial for physically performing at your best during your next training session.
Because micronutrients all play different roles in your recovery, eating a well-balanced diet that includes colorful fruits and vegetables is important.
While all micronutrients are vital for keeping your systems running smoothly, athletes should particularly focus on the following vitamins and minerals:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
Additionally, antioxidants, such as vitamin C, help reduce inflammation, which may aid in reducing tissue damage and post-workout inflammation.
It is important to note that there is no strong research to support taking mega-doses of micronutrients for performance improvement. However, deficiencies can impact muscle recovery and energy levels. Micronutrient deficiencies can also increase your risk for injuries and illness.
When we sweat, we don’t just lose water. We also lose electrolytes. You must replete both to achieve adequate hydration after a prolonged workout and keep your body functioning optimally.
According to a position statement by the American College of Sports Medicine, a fluid loss equivalent to just 2% of your body weight can result in electrolyte imbalances, causing muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches, and weakness.
Electrolytes are essential minerals your body needs to maintain fluid balance, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and much more. Building back your electrolytes — such as sodium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and potassium — is key to maximizing your rehydration, recovery, and gains.
FILLING IN THE GAPS WITH SUPPLEMENTS
While athletes can meet their nutrient needs without supplements, they can be a great way to provide a nutritional boost when you’re in a pinch.
Because high-quality protein can take time to prepare and isn’t as readily available as other nutrients, such as carbohydrates, whey protein powder can be an excellent way to meet your post-workout nutritional needs.
For convenience after a tough workout, utilize a high-quality post-workout supplement that gives you the carbohydrates and protein you need to help replenish glycogen stores, repair broken-down muscle tissue, and help your body recover.
Fruit and veggie powders are also a great way to fill dietary gaps and provide you with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to cover all your bases and take your health to the next level.
Lastly, drinking a high-quality electrolyte drink immediately after training is one of the best ways to replenish fluid losses after a prolonged workout.
Focus on high quality macros, micros, and electrolytes.
Optimize your post-workout nutrition by focusing on healthy carbs, proteins, and fat as well as micronutrients from fruits and vegetables.
Make sure to add electrolytes to your post workout recovery to refuel, replenish, and recover for the next training session.
Last thing we'll say about your post workout game:
Focusing on lean protein and high-quality cars is vital for replenishing muscle glycogen stores, increasing muscle growth, decreasing muscle protein breakdown, and optimal recovery.
Train hard and recover smart.