By HYLETE Content Team

Workouts are only one component of building muscle and improving performance. To reach all of your fitness goals, nutrition is paramount. While many people emphasize what to eat before their workout, post-workout nutrition often falls by the wayside. The nutrients you consume after your workout are extremely important. Optimal post-workout nutrition will help you recover quicker. We will offer some easy post-workout snack and meal ideas to help you replenish your energy after a workout and speed up recovery.

What Happens when you Work Out?

Physical activity impacts your body drastically. According to Healthline.com, when you work out, your body uses glycogen stores for fuel, which depletes your muscles of glycogen. A tough workout can also break down and damage proteins in your muscles. Repairing the muscles through recovery is actually what allows them to grow in size and strength. Replenishing your body after your workout is imperative for rebuilding glycogen stores and repairing muscle proteins. Carbs and proteins are crucial for this process. By consuming carbs and proteins after your workout, you will reduce muscle breakdown, activate muscle growth, replenish glycogen stores, and boost recovery.

Components of your Post-Workout Meal

Protein, carbs, and fat are the three macronutrients. Each has a different role in your post-workout recovery process.

Protein: The rate of muscle protein breakdown depends on the type and level of exercise, but workouts break down muscle protein. In order to repair and rebuild the proteins, your body needs enough amino acids. Consuming protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs for the repair process, and also provides the building blocks for building muscle tissue. Ingesting roughly 20-40 grams of protein post-workout maximizes your ability to recover.

Carbs: Carbs help replenish the glycogen stores that get used up during your workout. Endurance sports use more glycogen than resistance training, so you will need more carbs to replenish your glycogen after endurance activities. It is recommended to consume 0.5-0.7 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight within 30 minutes of your workout for optimal glycogen resynthesis.

Consuming carbs and protein at the same time stimulates insulin secretion which promotes glycogen synthesis. Research suggests that a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein) is ideal for maximizing protein and glycogen synthesis.

Fat: There is a common misconception that consuming fat after a workout will inhibit your absorption of nutrients. However, fat does not actually reduce the benefits of your post-workout snack or meal. It is not a bad idea to limit fat after a workout, but consuming some fat will not hurt your recovery.

Timing Matters

It is ideal to consume the combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising because your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is heightened following exercise. For the best boost in recovery, make sure to consume your post-workout snack within 45 minutes of exercising. Delaying your carb consumption by even two hours can decrease your glycogen synthesis by up to 50%! Make sure to plan ahead and always bring your post-workout snack.

Choosing Foods

Your post-workout snack or meal should have the right nutrients for recovery. When picking foods, opt for easily digestible foods that will offer quicker nutrient absorption. Below are some easily digested foods to consider adding to your post-workout snack:

  • Carbs
    • Chocolate milk
    • Quinoa
    • Fruit
    • Rice/Rice Cakes
    • Oatmeal
    • Potatoes
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Pasta
    • Dark, leafy greens
  • Protein
    • Protein powder
    • Eggs
    • Greek yogurt
    • Salmon
    • Chicken
    • Protein bar
    • Tuna
  • Fats
    • Avocado
    • Nuts/nut butters
    • Trail mix

Meal Ideas

Combine the foods listed above, and many more for endless post-workout meals to enhance recovery. Simply switch around the combinations so you never get bored with your post-workout meal. Some quick, easy meal and snack ideas include

  • Protein shake with nut butter sandwich
  • Tuna (or other meat) and crackers
  • Oatmeal, eggs, and fruit
  • Whole-grain cereal and milk
  • Quinoa bowl with berries and nuts
  • Fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein. Add Tumeric for an anti-inflammatory!
  • Dates and almond butter
  • Greek Yogurt or Cottage cheese with berries
  • Peanut butter and banana protein smoothie. Combine protein powder, almond milk, a banana, and peanut butter for a dessert-like post-workout snack.
  • Popcorn with protein powder. Pro tip: you can sprinkle your protein powder directly on the popcorn!

Water, Water, Water!

You cannot forget about hydration. Hydrating before and after a workout is crucial for your body. To maximize the results of your workout and speed up recovery, you need to replenish any lost electrolytes. Replenishing fluids is even more crucial if you have less than 12 hours between your sessions. As part of every post-workout snack or meal, make sure to consume enough water and continue to do so throughout your day.

In Summary

Your body takes a beating from working out. While exercising can offer many great benefits, it is the recovery process that yields results. Dedicate the time and planning to your post-workout snacks in order to replenish protein and glycogen depletion during your workout. The ideas for post-workout snacks and meals are endless. Combine your favorite sources of protein and carbs for a post-workout meal that works for you and boosts recovery.