What To Eat After A Workout - Your Post Workout Guide

In order to get the full benefits of a comprehensive workout, you need to know what to put in your body after you’ve completed your cardio and/or weightlifting routine. And it’s not often as simple as you might think. We’ve taken some of the best examples of post-workout nutrition and highlight just what makes them so beneficial. Here are some of the best foods and supplements your body needs after a workout––and the reasons why.

Feeding your body after a workout is an integral step to achieving results––almost as important a step as the exercise itself. That’s because as a result of such intensive activity, your muscles become depleted and worn down. In order for them to grow post-workout, they need to be rebuilt.

Muscles are filled with glycogen, a substance in the bodily tissues that store carbohydrates. During exercise, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. Not only that, but some of the proteins in your muscles are also broken down and damaged as a result of the strain on your body. After your workout, your body attempts to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. But it can't be done without a proper diet. Consuming the right nutrients right after a workout can drastically aid your body in replenishing these nutrients. And the best food groups that assist in this recovery are carbohydrates and proteins. 

Carbohydrates replenish the used stores of glycogen; and the amino acids found in proteins help to repair the muscle damage while also providing the building blocks required to form new muscle tissue. However, the rate at which your glycogen levels are depleted can often depend on the type of activity you are doing. For example, long-distance cardio sports cause your body to use more glycogen than basic weight-training. So, if you are coming down from a marathon run or swim, you might need to consume more carbohydrates than a heavy lifting gym rat.

What’s more, consuming more carbohydrates to replenish glycogen levels is typically more important for those who exercise frequently (like multiple workouts each day). If you are the type who works out 2 or 3 times a week, this amount of carbohydrates is not as important.

Foods to Eat After Your Workout

To provide your body with the appropriate nutrients for muscle recovery, and thus maximizing the benefits of your overall workout, you should select foods that are high in carbohydrates and proteins––especially foods that are easy to digest as this breakdown will promote faster nutrient absorption. 

Here are some great examples of foods to consume post-workout:

High carbohydrate content

  • Leafy greens (the darker the vegetable, the higher the quantity of fibre)
  • Starches, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, and pasta
  • Fruits (pineapple, dark berries, banana)
  • Snack foods that contain high levels of fibre (rice cakes, e.g.)
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Chocolate milk

Depending on your body weight, it is recommended that you consume 0.5–0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) within 30 minutes after a workout for proper glycogen resynthesis

High in protein

  • Fish (various types, but specifically tuna, salmon, or whitefish)
  • Chicken (preferably boneless and skinless)
  • Yogurt (low-fat Greek 0% - 1%, preferably without fruit flavoring)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs (whites and yolks are helpful)

Depending on your body weight, it is recommended that you consume 0.15–0.25 grams of protein per pound (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) right after a workout for proper muscle tissue  repair

Don’t forget the good fats…

Carbohydrates and proteins aren’t the only groups that benefit a post-workout body. Some foods high in good fats––taken in moderation––are also great for muscle recovery and growth. While certain fats may slow the absorption of your post-workout meal, they won’t affect any of the overall benefits. Some fats to incorporate into your post-workout meal include: 

  • Nuts and legumes
  • Nut butter (including cashew, almond, and peanut)
  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Trail mix (including a mixture of dried fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate)

…and don’t forget to drink plenty of water

As with any healthy and active lifestyle, hydration is key to aiding in all of the above. During exercise, your body loses water and electrolytes through sweat. Replenishing these after a workout can help with recovery and performance. Always be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your workout to ensure optimal health and to maximize the results of both the exercise and the post-workout refuel. If you are heavily active, it might even be best to complement your water intake with that of an electrolyte drink, such as Gatorade or vitamin water. 

SUPPLEMENTS

In addition to proper nutrition and hydration, you may also want to consider adding supplements to help aid in your post-workout recovery. Depending on your individual fitness goals, there are some helpful types of supplements that can assist––but, as always, do your homework and consider talking to a doctor before adding anything to your diet.

First of all, it is important to know the difference between pre-workout supplements and post-workout supplements as both types offer very contrasting benefits. Pre-workout supplements are typically designed to enhance performance and tend to feature higher levels of caffeine and other stimulants––which is great for before you hit the gym, but you don’t want to re-energize your body after exercising when you should be coming down (so be sure to read the labels very carefully).

Whereas pre-workout supplements help with endurance, after-workout supplements tend to focus on aiding in muscle recovery. Some of the best types of post-workout supplements include glutamine, casein protein, and whey powder. However, it all depends on the type of fitness program you’ve designed for yourself. If, for example, you are looking to add muscle mass, post-workout supplements featuring whey are a great idea. By consuming a fast-absorbing protein like whey, you are supplying your muscles with the same types of amino acids as those available in the above-mentioned food proteins. However, unlike the food proteins, whey doesn’t typically cause bloating. 

Speaking of proteins, another great example of a post-workout supplement are BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). BCAAs specifically help with muscle synthesis and have been shown to significantly reduce muscle damage. And best of all, if you are relatively new to working out, taking BCAA supplements post-workout can even relieve muscle soreness and exercise fatigue meaning that your body won’t ache the next day. 

Whatever your reason for working out, always be sure to take care of your body––before, during, and after exercising. Now that you have the tools and nutritional tips for better building your muscles, you should be able to safely and effectively notice a marked improvement.

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