If you are physically active you’ve probably thought about the best food to eat after a workout so that your body recovers from the physical strain.
So, today I will talk about what to eat after a workout.
Also, at the end of this article, I’ll show you the best food combinations to eat after exercising.
To fully understand how food can help you after a workout, you need to know how physical activity affects your body.
When you exercise, your muscles use nutrients as fuel.
And that fuel is glycogen. (1)
Unfortunately, glycogen isn’t abundant in your muscles and eventually, your muscles get exhausted.
Also, proteins in the muscles break down and damage.
So, after a workout, your body tries to restore its glycogen and protein reserves and to regenerate your muscles.
Why is a good diet after a workout important?
A good diet after a workout regenerates your body fast and it gives you energy.
It is very important to eat foods high in proteins and carbs after a workout.
Every macronutrient, no matter which one, protein, carb or fat, has its own role in the recovery process. (2)
When to eat after a workout?
Your body’s ability to fill the glycogen reserves and to recover your muscles increases after exercising.
It lasts about 45 minutes after a workout.
So, I suggest you eat a combination of carbs and proteins as soon as possible after your workout.
If you postpone eating for 2 hours after a workout the glycogen synthesis in your body will decrease by 50%.
That means less energy, muscles, and slowing down your metabolism.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t exaggerate with food since feeling hungry is strongest at 45 minutes after a workout, so you can easily overeat.
So, when to eat after a workout depends on your goals.
If your goal is to lose weight you can postpone your meal after 45 minutes from your workout.
That way you will create a calorie deficit and you will lose those extra pounds.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to lose weight you should eat right after your workout.
What to eat after a workout: Macros review
This is the most important macronutrient for recovery, growth and muscle regeneration.
Muscles, depending on the length and intensity of your workout, get damaged.
The intake of an appropriate amount of proteins after a workout gives your body the necessary amino acids for your muscles to recover.
Also, amino acids help retain lean muscles.
How much protein do you need after a workout?
A tip for women: I suggest you eat about 0.5 gr of protein per pound to retain lean muscles.
For guys is different since they need more proteins because they want more muscle mass.
So, intake about 30 gr proteins after a workout because that’s quite enough for your body to recover from a strenuous workout.
Best foods high in proteins to eat after a workout:
Carbs are also important for a recovery and energy boost.
As I said your body uses stored glycogen as fuel during exercising.
Eating foods high in carbs after a workout helps you compensate glycogen.
It depends on the activity you are doing how fast you’ll spend glycogen.
And the amount of carbs you need to intake depends on that, too.
For example, endurance sports (running, swimming, CrossFit, HIIT) spend more glycogen than strength workout.
If you do any of those sports you will need more carbs than when you are weightlifting.
On average, the intake of up to 1 gr of carbs per pound after a workout enables a proper synthesis of glycogen.
When you intake foods high in proteins and carbs after a workout the excretion of insulin improves which helps the synthesis of glycogen.
The recommended daily intake of carbs and proteins is a 3:1 ratio.
So if you intake 120 gr of carbs you should intake 40 gr of proteins also.
If you are extremely active and you exercise intensely every day, a meal high in proteins and carbs is necessary even 2 times a day.
If you are an average gym goer, you rest 1-2 days between workouts you need 1 meal like this per day.
So, the best food high in carbs to intake after a workout is:
- Wholegrain bread,
- Sweet potato,
- Brown rice,
- Oat flakes,
- Wholewheat pasta.
Although some studies show that eating fats after a workout slows down digestion and prevents the absorption of nutrients, fats do have certain benefits.
Apart from the fact that A, D, E, and K dissolve only in fats (liposoluble), fats take part in many metabolic processes.
Whole-fat milk, chocolate milk, for example, positively affect the growth of muscles after a workout.
Nevertheless, don’t exaggerate and limit the number of fats you eat.
It’s recommended to intake food high in unsaturated fatty acids such as avocado, nuts, salmon, olive oil, flaxseed, eggs.
So, what’s the bottom line?
The primary goal of your meal after a workout is to give your body the necessary nutrients to recover and get the maximum from your workout.
Choose ingredients that are easy to digest, high in proteins and carbs.
Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. (3)
It is very important to drink enough fluid before and after a workout.
Also, you can drink something high in electrolytes to compensate for vitamins and minerals that you lose sweating.
And at the end, as I promised, you can see some of my favorite food combinations to eat after a workout:
- Omelet with avocado and whole grain bread
- Salmon and sweet potato
- Tuna salad
- Oatmeal, banana, and almond
- Cottage cheese and orange
- Tortilla with hummus, paprika, and carrot
- Wholegrain toast with almond butter
- Greek yogurt, berries, and cereal
- Quinoa with nuts and strawberries
- Chicken breast and grilled vegetables
- Rice cake and peanut butter
- Milk and cereal