So, you’ve just checked “workout” off your daily to-do list. What’s next? Well, assuming you’re already done with some cool-down exercises and post-workout stretching, it’s time to refuel with a nutritious meal or snack.
Enriching your body with the right nutrients right after a challenging cardio or lifting session is essential for rehydration and recovery. That’s especially true if you’re aiming for strength gains because the body needs energy, water, and protein to rebuild muscles.
In this article, we’re looking at the best foods to eat after your workouts (and why). So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Why You Should Eat After Working Out
Before we look at the right post-workout meals and snacks, let’s look at what makes them so beneficial.
Firstly, a moderate to heavy workout will deplete most of your muscles’ glycogen and carbohydrate stores. A post-workout meal with the right macros helps replenish these in time.
Assuming you’ve lifted some weights, your muscle tissue would also be broken down. Getting some protein from high-quality sources is essential to start repairing and rebuilding all that muscle.
This is especially true for strength-training workouts, where your body needs to stimulate protein synthesis to rebuild your muscle fibers that have been inflicted with micro-tears.
Not to mention, you’ve also got to replace all those fluids lost through sweating and heavy breathing during your session. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods and drinks prevents exercise-induced damage to your cells.
Lastly, avoiding a post-workout meal will only leave you fatigued for the rest of the day. It inhibits recovery and could lead to reduced performance in your next exercise session. Who wants that?
What to Eat After a Workout
Now that we’ve got the “why” covered, let’s move on to “what” to eat after a workout.
As per general healthy dietary habits, aiming to eat a balanced snack or meal is the way to go. This means whatever you eat should have a decent mix of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and of course, high-quality protein.
Here’s a table showing everything you need to know about these macros. Keep reading for snack and meal ideas comprising these.
|Primary Post-Workout Benefits
|Helps replenish your glycogen stores which have been depleted during the workout.
|Supplies your muscles with amino acids, enhancing their growth and repair.
|Helps you feel full, supports energy level stability, and enhances fat-soluble vitamin absorption.
Here are a few solid post-workout dietary choices:
1. Chocolate milk
While it may sound too simple to be good enough, it’s got everything you’re looking for. From carbs and protein to fluids and electrolytes — it’s the full package. Not to mention, everybody loves it!
Fun fact, having some post-workout cow’s milk has been shown to enhance muscle protein synthesis, ease DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and replenish glycogen stores.
2. Veggie omelet with whole-grain toast
Eggs are one of the finest protein sources, with one large one offering 11 grams on average. Complement it with some toast to get high-quality complex carbs, and sprinkle extra virgin olive oil on top for your healthy fats. This makes for a simple, quick, and yet effective post-workout meal.
3. A Super Smoothie
After an intense workout session, have a smoothie made with 1 scoop of post-workout drink powder, 1 cup each of milk, greens, and fruit (banana, berries, etc.), and 1 tablespoon of nut butter. Nut butter provides healthy fats to help maintain stable energy levels, while fruits and veggies offer essential antioxidants to prevent exercise-induced cell damage. Your body will thank you for this one!
4. Chicken or tuna salad (with olive oil or mayo)
All of these meal ideas offer a healthy combination of carbs, protein, and fats, and this one’s no different. The chicken/tuna provides sufficient post-workout protein to stimulate protein synthesis. The fruits and veggies in the salads are a great source of carbs, dietary fiber, and antioxidants. The mayo or olive oil not only adds flavor to the salad but also enriches it with healthy fats to provide sustainable energy throughout the day.
5. Nuts & dried fruits
This one’s more of a snack but still has everything your body needs after taking a beating in the gym. Fruit and nuts comprise a super combo, offering all three of the macros we’re aiming for i.e. carbs, protein, and healthy fats. For bonus points, pair this snack with a glass of tart cherry juice as it helps with muscle soreness.
The following are some other post-workout snack ideas that check all the boxes:
- Bananas with nut butter
- Fruit with boiled eggs
- Apple slices with cheese
- Protein bar
- Fiber-rich, low-sugar cereal
After a strenuous exercise session, nutrition is your best friend for recovery, muscle growth, and coming back stronger for your next workout. Refueling adequately requires a meal or snack consisting of carbohydrates, protein, and fats in a healthy balance.