There are two types of people – those who leave a training session famished and ready to devour anything in sight, and those who feel too hyped to eat anything at all. No matter which camp you fall into, one of the best things you can do following any training is to pay close attention to your post-workout nutritionand follow through on it. But where to start and what should you eat after a workout?

What is post-exercise nutrition?

First things first, let’s get to grips with what it is exactly. Chances are you’ve fueled your body sufficiently with that essential pre-workout nutrition. After all, that’s what gets you going before the big session. Without it, you might feel lacking in energy and motivation.

But that post-exercise nutrition is just as important, and it is a must in any workout routine.

Helps your body to recover, repair, and rebuild, making all that effort you put in worthwhile.

This is what helps your body to recover, repair, and rebuild, making all that effort you put in worthwhile. So, whether it’s a snack, a smoothie or a full meal, making sure you take the time to eat after a session is essential to getting the results you want.

Post-exercise nutrition is an essential snack or meal after a workout, which helps your body to recover.

working out together

What’s the importance of that post-workout meal?

When you work out, your body uses its energy stores to help you complete that session. That means your system burns its stores of glycogen as fuel. In the background, your muscles are also working at full steam (we hope) and as they do suffer micro-damage; this is what allows you to become leaner, stronger and also build muscle.

So, getting in that post-workout meal allows your body to:

  • Refuel by replacing the glycogen that was burned during your workout, giving you energy for the rest of the day.
  • Engage in the repair and growth of your muscle tissues that have experienced micro-tears during your routine.
  • Slow the breakdown of proteins in the muscles allowing recovery to take place.

Ensuring you get a well-balanced delight after you burn those calories means your body is equipped to deal with all you’ve thrown at it.

Refueling, Repair and Growth, and Recovery, are at the heart of post-workout nutrient and the three vital reasons you need to make it a priority.

When to have that post-workout meal?

Post-workout nutrition timing is vital, eat too soon, and you could end up with a sore stomach, leave it too long, and you might be missing out on the benefits.

Studies into post-workout nutrition suggest that there is an anabolic "window of opportunity" in which those working out can optimize or bio-hack their system to get the most from what they eat due to the body’s enhanced ability to rebuild its stores of protein and glycogen during this time.

Timing is everything in post-workout nutrition; studies recommend aiming to get that meal in within the first 30 minutes after you’ve worked out. However, even if you miss this window, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t refuel; only that the maximum benefits won’t be achieved.

Make sure to take a little break and get that meal in within thirty minutes of that workout.

What should you really be eating after a workout?

protein nutrition

If you’re looking to adapt your post-workout nutrition for muscle gain or to optimize your efforts, there are three essential nutrients you need to pay attention to – protein, carbs and fats.

  • Carbohydrates – getting around 1.5-2 grams (0.5-0.7 grams) of carbs per kilo (per pound) of body weight.
  • Proteins – aim for approximately 0.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, that’s 0.1-0.2 grams per pound.

But it’s not just the categories of food that matter; it’s what you eat. These are some of the best foods you can add to your body after that session.

Carbs

Avoid a carb binge by aiming for healthy varieties, such as:

  • Sweet potato
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Bulgar wheat
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Crackers
  • Pumpkin

Proteins

Lean protein is the way to go for after that session, be sure to include some of the following into your meal:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Milk (chocolate milk included)
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon
  • Cod

Fats

Getting healthy fats helps you feel fuller for longer and boosts your potential to absorb vitamins:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts including almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • Olive oil

Ensuring an appropriate amount of proteins, carbs, and fats in your post-exercise nutrition helps your body to recover faster and makes that workout worthwhile.

What not to eat after a workout

pizza eaters

Now that you know what to eat, let’s take a quick look at what’s best left off the menu and placed in the avoid column. Stay away from the following foods:

  • Coffee – even if you’re feeling that post-workout dip, try to avoid reaching for a hot cup of joe. Caffeine is a natural diuretic, which can quickly leave you feeling dehydrated.
  • Sugary smoothies – while blending all those nutrients might seem like an ideal way to get your vitamin intake, step away from the blender. Smoothies can be high in sugar, which might give you an immediate boost with a greater fall later.
  • Soda – like those smoothies, pop might give you an instant energy boost and make you think you’re full. But don’t be fooled; this is only temporary.
  • Candy – more sugar? No, thanks! Sweets, like soda and smoothies, will give you a burst of energy but give you a comedown to match.
  • Heavy red meat – if your idea of a treat is a nice, juicy steak, now is not the time. Red meats can be hard to digest and leave your body expending more energy than it needs to right now. Instead, aim for leaner proteins.
  • Fast food – there might be nothing like a drive-through treat, but why waste that workout. Fast food will inhibit your recovery process and leave your body feeling groggy.
  • Alcohol – Time to relax with a beer or a glass of red wine, right? Well, no. Aside from being a diuretic like caffeine, alcohol contains lots of empty calories. So, why waste that workout?

Stick to the plan – protein, carbs, healthy fats and few vitamins thrown in – and you’ll find post-workout success. But stay away from unessential sugars, heavy red meats, and fast food which put that hard work at risk.

Is it ever ok to give post-workout nutrition a miss?

While you should always refuel your body after any intense energy expenditure, there are times when you don’t need to invest so intensely into your after-workout meals.

Be sure to switch that meal to a simple snack when your workout wasn’t that intense, especially if your pre-workout meal was on-point. This helps you avoid taking in any unnecessary calories.

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Written by Maria Isabella Neverovich
Maria is an Irish writer, Health Editor at Verv, lover of forests, mountains and all things nature. She enjoys discovering new vegetarian dishes, creating...
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