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Whether you went morning jogging or lifted heavy weights at the gym, finishing your workout session isn’t the end of the process. Knowing what to eat after your hard workout can play a key role in helping your body refuel rehydrate and recover from the efforts of exercise. Also, it helps your muscles rebuild.
You don’t need to eat a ton after your workout, but it’s important to eat the right food. You want to think about fueling up your body while you’re cooling it down that’s the purpose of a post-workout meal.
Today, in this article we’re going to talk about post-workout nutrition and what food to eat after a workout.
Let’s get into the topic!
1. Why It’s Important to Eat After a Workout?
After your workout session, your body tries to recover and rebuild its glycogen stores as well as repair and regrow your muscle proteins. So, eating the right nutrient-rich food soon after you workout can help your body get this process done faster. Especially, It’s important to eat carbs and protein enriched food after your workout. It helps your body to:
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown
- Increase your muscle protein synthesis (growth)
- Restore your body’s glycogen stores
- Enhance your body’s recovery process
2. Factoring in Carbs, Protein and Fat
Carbs, protein and fat are the three important macronutrients involved in your body’s post-workout recovery process. That’s why it’s important to have the right mix of these three macronutrients in your post-workout meal. Let’s check out how these three macronutrients help your body refuel, rehydrate and recover post-workout.
I) Carbs Help with Your Body Recovery
Our body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during a workout, therefore, eating carbs food after your workout helps replenish them. The amount at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the workout you do. For example, endurance workouts cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance workouts. In case, if you participate in endurance workouts like running, swimming, etc. You might need to eat more carbs food than somebody engaging in a workout like weightlifting. Studies suggest that eating 0.5–0.7 grams (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes after workout session results in proper glycogen resynthesis.
Also, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when you consumed carbs and protein at the same time. Therefore, eating both carbs and protein after a workout can maximize your body’s protein and glycogen synthesis. Eat carbs and protein in a 3 to 1 ratio. For example, If you eat 120 grams of carbs, then you need to have 40 grams of protein.
Besides, eating plenty of carbs is most important for people who workout often such as two times in the same day, as it helps to rebuild glycogen stores. On the other hand, if you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts, you can take fewer amounts of carbs.
II) Protein Helps Muscles Repair and Rebuild
Exercising triggers the breakdown of our body muscle protein. The amount at which this happens depends on your workout intensity. Therefore eating an adequate amount of protein after a workout session gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these muscle proteins. Protein also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue in your body. It’s recommended that you should consume 0.14–0.23 grams (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) of protein per pound of your body weight after your workout.
Several studies have shown that eating 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after a workout. However, one study found that eating protein pre-workout and post-workout has a similar effect on your muscle strength, hypertrophy, and body composition changes.
III) Fat is Not A Bad Nutrient
Most people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. Even though fat might slow down the absorption process of your post-workout meal, it will also provide some benefits. For example, the research found that consuming whole milk after a workout can promote muscle growth more effectively than skim milk. It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you consume after a workout, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.
3. The Timing of Your Post-Workout Meal Consumption Matters
Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you workout. For this reason, it’s recommended that you have a post-workout meal with a combination of carbs and protein as early as possible after your workout out session. Experts recommended eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes, as a delay of carb consumption after a workout may lead to 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis.
However, if you consumed a pre-workout meal rich in whole carbs and protein an hour before exercising, you can extend your consumption of a post-workout meal a little longer, depending on the timing of your pre-workout meal.
Additionally, recovery is not just about what you eat directly after a workout session. It’s an ongoing process. So, it’s best to eat small, well-balanced meals of carbs and protein every 3–4 hours throughout the day.
4. What Foods to Eat After A Workout?
The main goal of your post-workout meal is to provide your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. So, here is a list of simple and easily digested foods to eat after your workout:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grain Bread
- Chocolate Milk
- Quinoa and Other Grains
- Fruits (pineapple, banana, kiwi)
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Animal or Plant-Based Protein Powder
- Protein Bar
- Nut Butters (Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, etc)
- Dried Fruits and Nuts Mix
5. Sample Post-Workout Meals
Combinations of the above-listed foods can create a great post-workout meal that provides you with all the required nutrients you need after an intensive workout. Here are a few examples of quick and easy post-workout meals to eat after your workout:
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice
- Egg omelette with avocado spread on whole-grain toast
- Egg scramble
- Salmon with sweet potato
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole-grain bread
- Tuna and crackers
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
- Cereal with dairy or soy milk
- Cottage cheese and fruits
- Rice crackers and peanut butter
- Whole-grain crackers with string cheese and fruit
- Whole grain toast and almond butter
- Greek yoghurt, berries and fruits
- Protein shake and banana
- Fruit Smoothies
Eating the right foods to fuel your body after a workout will be the most important part of achieving your fitness goals. And, having a nutrition-based food plan in place will create the success of your meal plan post and pre-workout. Hope these post-workout foods suggestions will help you plan an effective post-workout meal strategy to enhance your body’s refuel, rehydrate and recovery processes after a workout. While you’re planning your post-workout meal also remember to drink plenty of water.
Do you guys have any other post-workout foods suggestions? Let us know in the comments!