The Best Post-Workout Snacks and Meals
Consuming the right nutrients post-workout is just as important as what you eat before a workout and may help you maximize workout efforts.
Here is a detailed guide to the best post-workout snacks and meals.
Why Eating After a Workout Is Important
To understand why eating the proper foods after a workout is important, it is essential to understand how physical activity affects the body.
During a workout, some proteins in muscles get broken down and glycogen stores in your muscles are used as fuel.
Following a workout, your body works to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients can help your body accomplish this faster. Carbs and protein are particularly important after a workout.
Consuming adequate nutrients after a workout helps your body:
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth)
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown
- Support recovery
- Replenish glycogen stores
Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat – Why They Are Important After a Workout
Each macronutrient — fat, carbs, and protein — plays a key role in the body’s recovery phase after a workout.
Protein – Protein supplies the body with the amino acids it needs to help build and repair muscles after they are broken down during a workout.
Studies have demonstrated that consuming 20 to 40 grams of protein after a workout can help maximize the body’s recovery capabilities.
Carbs – Eating carbs after a workout helps replenish your body’s glycogen stores that get depleted during exercise.
How fast glycogen stores are depleted depends on the type of activity and the intensity. For instance, endurance sports deplete the body’s glycogen stores faster than resistance training. Therefore, endurance training such as swimming or running will likely require additional post-workout carbs compared to a bodybuilder.
Try consuming carbs and protein in a ratio of 3:1. For example, 60 grams of carbohydrates to 20 grams of protein.
Eating enough carbohydrates post-workout to replenish glycogen stores is especially important for frequent exercisers. For example, individuals who exercise twice in one day will likely need to focus more on restoring glycogen compared to individuals who take a day or two of rest in between workouts.
Healthy Fats Are Good
It is a common worry that consuming fat after a workout will slow the absorption of nutrients in your post-workout snack or meal.
While fat may slow down the rate at which your food is absorbed, it will not reduce the benefits of your post-workout meal.
For instance, this study demonstrated that consuming whole milk instead of skim milk was more effective at promoting post-workout muscle growth.
Another study found that ingesting a high-fat meal post-workout did not affect muscle glycogen synthesis.
While you may want to consider limiting the amount of fat in your post-workout snack or meal, having some fat after exercising will not harm recovery.
Nutrient Timing Is Key
Your body’s rebuilding abilities for protein and glycogen are enhanced after exercise. This makes it an ideal time to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs — protein and carbohydrates — to maximize this process.
While there isn’t an exact time, the majority of experts recommended eating a post-workout snack or meal within 45 minutes of exercising.
It is believed that consuming carbs too long after a workout may lead to a 50 per cent decrease in glycogen synthesis.
However, a pre-workout meal or snack prior may still be supplying your body with nutrients, even after training.
Bottom line? Aim to eat a post-workout meal or snack within 45 minutes of completing your workout. You may be able to extend this timing, depending on when you ate your pre-workout meal and what it consisted of.
The Best Foods to Eat After You Workout
The primary goal of a post-workout meal or snack is to nourish your body with the proper nutrients to support recovery and maximize your workout’s benefits. Choosing foods that are easy to digest will help facilitate faster nutrient absorption.
Here are some quick ideas for easily digested foods to eat after a workout:
Easy sources of carbs after a workout include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark, leafy greens
- Rice cakes
- Fruits (kiwi, bananas, oranges, berries, pineapple, pears, apples)
- Chocolate milk
Some great sources of protein to enjoy after exercising include:
- Plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Whole Eggs
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bars
- High-quality protein shake
- Plant-based or whey-based protein powder
- Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, or mackerel
Healthy fats to considering adding to your post-workout snack or meal include:
- Nut kinds of butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Homemade trail mix (nuts, dried fruits, seeds)
Healthy, Easy Post-Workout Meal Ideas
Combinations of the foods listed above can create great, convenient meals that provide you with all the nutrients you need after exercise.
Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:
- Whole grain, sprouted bread spread with nut butter
- A bowl of oatmeal or quinoa with berries and nuts
- A high-quality protein shake with a banana
- An omelette with veggies (broccoli, onion, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach) with a side of avocado spread on toast
- Tuna or salmon with whole-grain crackers
- Pitas with hummus
- Rice crackers with nut butter
- Whole grain toast with nut butter
- Cereal with milk (choose a cereal with minimal sugar and additives)
- Cottage cheese and a side of fruit
- Salmon or other fatty fish and a side of sweet potatoes
- Grilled chicken with a side of roasted vegetables
Be Sure To Stay Hydrated
Staying adequately hydrated is crucial before, during, and after workouts to perform at your best and maximize results.
During physical activity, our bodies lose electrolytes and water through sweat. Replenishing this post-workout can help enhance recovery. It is particularly important to replenish fluids if you plan to exercise again within 12 hours.
Consuming the right nutrients after a workout can help enhance performance during your next workout, support recovery, and stimulate muscle growth. If possible, eat within 45 minutes of your workout or at least within 2 hours.
Do you have any go-to post-workout meals or snacks? We’d love to hear from you!