Know how to do it rightDaily is always important, but especially when there are specific fitness goals you want to achieve. It is important that you eat enough on training days as this can affect your performance . However, this is easier said than done when you’re not sure where to start. Having a clear idea of what to eat and how much of it is another piece of the puzzle.
We consulted with Registered Dietitians who work with everyday people and athletes to create a guide to what your post-workout meals should look like. We also explain how and when it is important to eat after a workout.
Best of all, these ideas can even work while you’re on the go so you don’t miss out on the nutrients you need.
Should you always eat after a workout?
It’s important to make sure you’re replenishing the nutrients lost through sweat and activity. Registered Dietitian Trista Best at Balance One Supplements says, “During a workout, muscles use their glycogen stores for energy.” This means that during this time, muscles are mostly depleted of glycogen (stored sugar used for energy) and protein be dismantled.
“Once your workout is over, the body starts rebuilding glycogen stores and restoring muscle protein to regrow muscle,” she explains. That means the nutrients you get are just as important as the workout itself. Eating right also keeps you from breaking down and functioning at your best throughout the day.
Eating a post-workout meal is only important if you’re exercising sober (on an empty stomach). However, you don’t necessarily have to rush a meal right after chilling. You’re in the green as long as you refill within a few hours of your workout.
If you’ve eaten a nutritious meal within a few hours before your workout, you don’t have to worry about adding a post-workout meal as well. As long as you’re consuming the right nutrients throughout the day, your body can use them to restore energy and build muscle.
what to eat
If you want to get the most out of a post-workout meal, plan your plate carefully. “The goal is to replace the carbohydrates used for energy during competition and consume protein to build and repair lean muscle mass,” says sports nutritionist Mandy Tyler.
Krutika Nanavati, performance nutrition specialist and sports nutritionist, suggests adding lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to maximize the benefits of your meal. Look for foods that are easy to digest, as this will help your body absorb the nutrients from your food more easily. “Avoid sugary foods as these can cause your blood sugar to spike and then plummet, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish,” she warns. Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These give you sustained energy without the sugar crash.
These are good tips to keep in mind for all training day meals, not just post-workout.
consider food combinations
Best says a good rule of thumb is to get 20 to 40 grams of protein from lean sources like poultry, tuna, egg whites, protein powder, and tofu after a workout. Then eat 0.5 to 0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Options for your complex carbohydrate base can include quinoa, oats, bananas, or whole wheat pasta or rice.
Because everyone’s needs vary based on activity and fatigue throughout the day, these numbers can fluctuate. Kelsey Lorencz, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with Zenmaster Wellness, recommends choosing a snack or meal with 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and 10 to 20 grams of protein after a hard workout. “Easy ways to get that ratio would be pairing Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, a fruit smoothie with protein powder, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread,” she says.
If you’re on the go, Lorencz suggests opting for smoothies with youor a . Other options include eating fruits like an apple, banana, or grapes along with mixed nuts or nut butter for a quick fix.
Match your meal to your workout
When putting together a post-workout meal, it’s important to consider the type of workout you’ve been doing and how intense it was. “If you’ve had a really strenuous weight training session, you need to replenish your glycogen stores with some carbohydrates, but if you’re running long, you need to replenish your fluids and electrolytes with some water and sodium. ‘ says Nanavati. (More on liquids below.)
Another thing to keep in mind is that the amount you eat will vary depending on the intensity of your workout. “Someone who does a 60-minute, higher-intensity workout should aim for a post-workout meal that’s higher in carbohydrate and protein than those who spend less time doing moderate-intensity exercise,” explains Edibel Quintero, a registered nutritionist with HealthInsider.
Because recommendations vary widely from person to person and workout to workout, it’s a good idea to consult a trainer or nutritionist if you need more specific guidance. However, eating a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats throughout the day is a safe bet for most people.
Don’t neglect hydration before and after exercise
Finally, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. “The best way to stay hydrated during and after exercise is to drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the day,” advises Nanavati. She says there’s no need to gulp down a giant bottle of water right after a workout. “Just drink enough to quench your thirst and you’ll be well on your way to recovery.”
If you’re training for a long distance race or training for more than an hour at a time, you might want to do thiswith a sports drink. “These can be helpful for replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise, but they’re not necessary for everyone,” says Nanavati. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re doing moderate exercise for less than an hour, then plain water is probably all you need. However, if you exercise at high intensity for long periods of time, a sports drink may be a better option.
Proper post-workout nutrition is essential to achieving your fitness goals, be it that, get stronger, be happier or something else. Reducing food or calories is rarely helpful, contrary to popular belief. In reality, if you eat enough, nourish yourself, and exercise, you will achieve better results.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals.