What to Eat After a Workout?

January 20, 2021

You’ve crushed your workout-#doneanddusted, so now you can reward yourself with all your favorite foods, right? Well, not quite. What you eat after your workout must meet certain nutritional benchmarks. It’s all about maximizing those gains, helping your muscles grow and repair, and reducing fatigue.

“The body most effectively replenishes carbohydrates shortly after a workout to promote muscle repair and growth,” McKenzie Flinchum, RD, a Florida-based nutritionist and certified personal trainer, tells Health.” Post-workout nutrition should be rich in carbohydrates to replenish muscle fuel stores, contain lean protein to promote muscle repair, and include fluids and electrolytes for effective hydration.” And if you have a quick turnaround time between workouts, Flinchum says it’s even more important to eat carbohydrates and protein post-workout to maximize recovery.

Here are seven foods that are approved by experts as post-workout fuel.

“Eating protein-rich foods after a workout helps build muscle, decrease recovery time and increase strength,” North Carolina-based nutritionist and Dish on Fish blogger Rima Kleiner, RD, tells Health. That’s because protein helps our brains recognize the hormone leptin, which provides energy and helps us feel fuller for longer.

“Protein is the building block of every cell and tissue in our body,” says Kleiner. She recommends eating 3 ounces of cooked salmon fillets, which provides about 20 grams of protein.

Eggs are another great source of protein – they also contain a range of vitamins (including B, D and E), biotin, potassium, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids (in the yolk). Flinchum recommends aiming for 15 to 40 grams of protein in your post-workout meal to promote muscle repair. And don’t forget nutritious carbohydrate sources, such as rice, potatoes or oatmeal.

“You’ll probably reap the greatest benefits when you nibble on a combination of protein and carbs to replenish those glycogen stores,” says Kleiner. Rice, potatoes, and oatmeal are all nutritious sources of carbohydrates.

While it’s important to replenish your glycogen stores soon after a workout, you don’t have to eat right after to reap the benefits. In general, it’s a good idea to eat within the 45-minute post-workout window, Kleiner adds.

Black Rice
Florida-based fitness trainer Tanya Etessam swears by black rice as the ultimate post-workout carbohydrate source.” It contains the same antioxidants found in blueberries – without the sugar!” She told Health.” It also contains almost twice the amount of fiber found in brown rice and helps lower cholesterol.”

Fresh n’ Lean consultant Randy Evans, RD tells Health, “In your post-workout meals, aim for a good balance of mostly whole foods, healthy carbohydrates, healthy protein and healthy fats.” Balance is emphasized because healthy carbs restore our carbohydrate stores and provide vitamins, minerals and fiber, but healthy fats and proteins are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and they also provide longer-lasting energy.”

Yogurt with fruit.
Yogurt is the perfect post-workout snack because it boosts your protein intake and is also a nutritious source of carbohydrates. Adding fruit doesn’t just make it more interesting – fruit is beneficial post-workout because it contains simple carbohydrates that can be absorbed quickly, says Flinchum.” Your blood sugar levels will drop during exercise, but fruit will quickly increase them again,” she explains.

If you’re wondering what fruit to choose, don’t overthink it.” All fruits are comparable in terms of carbohydrate content and effectiveness,” says Flinchum.” Berries tend to be lower in calories and sugar than fruits like mangoes and pineapples, but as long as you’re getting the right amount, go with your personal preference!”

Nuts and seeds
If you don’t have time for a cooked meal after a workout, you can’t go wrong with a handful of nuts and seeds.Etessam recommends soaking nuts to break down gluten, reduce phytic acid, and remove tannins.” This makes the nuts easier to digest and increases the absorption of vitamins,” she says. She also recommends chia seeds as an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Plus, they help regulate insulin levels.

Smoothie with protein powder
Smoothies are another quick and easy post-workout snack that you can prepare ahead of time.” Protein powder supplements are an easy way to add protein to your smoothies,” says Flinchum.” Bananas, oats and yogurt are all nutritious sources of carbohydrates.”

Add a handful of greens, such as spinach, to your smoothies, which are high in immune-boosting vitamin A, iron and antioxidants, thereby packing even more benefits into your smoothie.

Water and electrolytes
Finally, don’t forget to hydrate! “Post-workout dehydration is really common, especially in hot environments,” says Flinchum.” Try to stay hydrated during your workout, but also make sure to increase your fluid consumption post-workout.”

And if you sweat a lot or notice any signs of dehydration, such as dizziness or fatigue, you may also need to take in some electrolytes (sodium and potassium) – this can be done by adding electrolytes to foods or sports drinks.