What should I eat after a workout?

Exercise can take a lot out of your body. It depletes your energy and even causes microtrauma to your muscles. In order to recover and get ready for your next workout, like a battery, you need to replenish and recharge so you can do it all again soon.

If you want to get the most from your training, it’s time to start paying attention to post-exercise nutrition. Consider the following information when deciding what to eat after exercise.


Protein and muscle repair

If you lift weights, your workout will have caused damage to your muscles. Don’t worry, as bad as this sounds, it’s actually a good thing and is the trigger for muscle growth and repair.

Your body uses amino acids to repair this muscle damage, and it gets these amino acids from protein. Just think of amino acids as building blocks and, like a builder uses bricks, your body uses them to fix your muscles up as good as new. In fact, to protect your muscles from subsequent stress, your body overcompensates and makes your muscles stronger than they were before.

Good after-exercise protein sources include:

  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and pulses

Plant-based and whey protein powder

Carbs for energy

During exercise, your body uses glycogen for energy. Glycogen is glucose stored in your muscles and your liver. To recover and get you ready for your next workout, you need to replace your depleted glycogen stores, and that means eating carbohydrate as part of your post-exercise nutrition plan.

Carbs are digested and converted into glucose and then transported to your muscles to replenish your glycogen stores. This process is hastened due to increased insulin sensitivity. This ensures the carbs you eat after exercise are preferentially directed to your muscles and kept away from your fat stores. 

Good carb choices for after-exercise include:

  • Sprouted and wholegrain bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes

What about fat?

Along with glycogen, your body also uses fat for energy. Does this mean you should include fat in your post-exercise nutrition plan? That’s a hard no! For a start, most people have more than enough body fat to meet their exercising energy needs. There is no need to replenish what is already in abundant supply.

Secondly, fat is a gastric inhibitor. This means it keeps food in your stomach for longer. The last thing most exercisers need is to delay the digestive process as that would prevent protein and carbs from getting to your muscles, delaying the recovery process.

Avoid fats to make sure there is no delay in putting your post-training nutrition plan into action. Make sure you choose low-fat proteins and carbs, avoiding high-fat foods for at least a couple of hours after exercise.

Post-training nutrition timing

So, how soon after your workout should you eat your post-training meal? As soon as possible! Insulin sensitivity is highest straight after exercise and declines gradually as the hours pass. If you want to make sure your muscles get the energy and nutrients they need as soon as possible, try and eat a combination of protein and carbs immediately after exercise.

Solid food can take time to digest, even when it’s low in fat, so consider speeding things up by chugging down a post-exercise nutrition shake made from protein powder and dextrose. Liquids are easier and faster to digest so you’ll help make sure your recovery gets off to the fastest start possible.

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