Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After Exercise

Did you know what and when you eat after a workout can have a huge impact on muscle growth and energy levels? In fact, there are certain nutrients that can play a major role in your recovery, and they don’t need to come from expensive store-bought protein bars or shakes.

 

What should I be eating after a workout?

After a workout, two nutrients become super important: protein and carbohydrates. We need energy in the form of carbohydrates to replenish any losses, along with protein to aid with muscle repair and synthesis.

This is especially true if we undergo intense exercise, such as heavy weight lifting or long-distance running. In this case, additional fluid also becomes important to prevent dehydration and replace any losses.

If our workout is less intense, or our goal is not to gain muscle, post-workout nutrition becomes less significant.

It’s important to remember that extra food = extra calories. If our exercise does not raise our heart rate or promote muscle tears, the extra nutrients could be stored as fat and not utilized. This could be good or bad depending on your overall fitness goals.

Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After Exercise

 

 

What are carbohydrates and protein?

Carbohydrates are basically a complex word for sugar. When we eat carbohydrates (or foods with sugar), they can be broken down and used for immediate energy or stored as glycogen for later use.

In our body, glycogen is stored within our liver and muscle. From here glycogen can be released from the liver to maintain normal blood sugar levels, or from the muscle to be used as direct energy.

Foods that are rich in carbohydrate include:

  • Whole grains such as bread, quinoa, bagels, oats, rice, pasta
  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, edamame beans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Whole fruit such as apples, bananas, pineapple
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, carrots, squash

Protein is important to help regrow and repair muscle fibers that have been damaged during exercise. This is really important to promote muscle growth.

Foods that are good sources of protein include:

  • Meat products: chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs
  • Nuts, seeds, and their butters
  • Dairy products: milk, cheese, greek yogurt
  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, edamame beans, chickpeas, lentils

Ideally you should aim for a carbohydrate rich snack that contains between 15-25g of protein. However, our body size and level of exercise intensity will affect our needs. For individualized recommendations – contact your local sports dietitian for a thorough analysis.

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When should I eat a post workout snack?

Ideally, a post nutrition snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing a workout to promote glycogen storage and muscle repair. If your on the go, plan ahead to have a quick and easy post-workout snack with you in your workout bag or car.

 

Easy post workout snacks containing protein and carbohydrates:

 

1. Hard Boiled Eggs with Toast: This lovely pair is not only for breakfast. Each egg contains 6g of protein, 78 calories, 5g fat, and 1g carbohydrate. Consume 1-3 eggs with 1-2 slices of high fiber bread such as Silver Hills Bakery Squirrelly Sprouted Bread for an extra 17-36g of carbohydrate and an additional 110-220 calories.

Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After Exercise

 

2. Chocolate Milk: Yes, that deliciously sweet drink you probably consumed when you were a child. Well guess what, it’s not just for kids! It may or may not be a surprise that chocolate milk has been determined by research to be one of the best post workout snacks due to its protein and carbohydrate content. Choose a low fat version  for less calories, which contains 8g of protein, 158 calories, 2.5g fat, and 25 g of carbohydrates per one cup serving.

3. Canned Tuna with Whole Grain Crackers: Good ol’ tuna is packed with protein and contains heart healthy fats. Look for canned tuna in water with little to no added sugar, such as Ocean’s Flaked Light Tuna for a healthier choice. This 85g individual can contains only 140 calories, 18g of protein, 7g fat, and 0g carbohydrates. Top tuna onto one serving of whole grain crackers for 15-30g additional carbohydrates, such as WASA Multigrain or Kashi Crackers Original 7 Grain.

Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After Exercise

4. Greek Yogurt with Fruit: Low fat plain greek yogurt contains a whopping 17g of protein, along with only 100 calories and 8g of carbohydrates per 3/4 cup serving. Choose plain greek yogurt, such as Oikos Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt, over flavored versions for less added sugar and more protein. For a complete post workout snack, add one fruit such as a sliced banana or one cup of strawberries for 20-30g extra carbohydrates.

 5. Apple with Peanut Butter: Have you tried sliced apple dipped in peanut butter? Can you say D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S? Well, it’s a wonderful fact that this combination also contains carbohydrates and protein, therefore can be a great post-workout snack. Serve 2-3 tbsp of Natural Creamy Peanut Butter on top of a sliced apple for 8-12g of protein, 300-400 calories, 30g carbohydrates, and 1 g of fiber.

 

What are you eating for a post workout snack?

 

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4 comments on “Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After Exercise”

  1. Awesome article!! Such good tips. I love that chocolate milk is the best post-workout snack- who would’ve thought such a tasty beverage would aid in muscle repair? Who needs all those protein powders right?

    • Thanks Britany! You are so right! Food can provide us with all of the protein, carbs, vitamins/minerals we need for general health and sports nutrition.For that reason, there isn’t a need to having to pay +++money for expensive protein powders or bars. 🙂

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