Besides “how do you pronounce your last name?” one of the questions I hear most often is “what should I eat after a workout?”

While there’s a common understanding that eating after a workout is important, there’s some confusion (and debate) about what we should be eating.

On one hand I see big beefy dudes at the gym fillin’ their shaker cups with whey protein and water (ew) immediately after a workout, and then on the other I see pictures on Instagram of post-workout carb fests.

Some proponents of flexible dieting say ice cream and Pop Tarts are perfectly acceptable post-workout fuelling options, while others say fat hinders the recovery process so you should not eat ANY for at least two hours after a workout.

With all this conflicting information, it’s just easier to eat nothing! Which is unfortunate, because you run the risk of hindering your recovery. There’s also the possibility of turning into a Hangry Monster. And the people in your life really don’t deserve that.

what should you eat after a workoutSo today I’m here to clear the air. A detailed post on this topic could take you hours to read (and days for me to write), so I’ll do my best to condense this as much as possible 😉

Defining “Workout”

First, let’s determine what constitutes as a workout. For the purpose of this post, a workout is something lasting 20-30 minutes or more (depending on the intensity) that elevates your heart rate and makes your muscles feel like they’re doin’ some work. You’ll likely break a sweat, and this bout of activity is done for the sake of improving your fitness.

You’ll need to be honest with yourself on this one. While a brisk 20 minute walk might be a real workout for someone who’s just beginning their fitness journey, it’s not if you’re active on a regular basis and consider yourself to be fairly fit. Let’s be real here – you don’t need to refuel after a walk with a sushi feast.

Similarly, unless it’s to reward yourself for entering scary territory like behind the fridge or underneath the sink, cleaning your apartment doesn’t warrant post-workout cookies.

You may also like:   Fit Tip Friday: Transverse Abdomi-What??

We clear on that? 😉

So – What Should You Eat After a Workout?

So now we know what qualifies as a workout – so what do we eat after? Just protein? Just carbs? A bit of both? Just fat?

What should you eat after a workout?? via @arianafotinakis #postworkout #nutrition #fitnesstips Click To Tweet

There’s a huge emphasis put on post-workout protein, and for good reason. Protein helps our muscles repair from the work we put in. If you’re looking to build muscle, this is important. Wanting to lose weight? This is important. Trying to improve your athletic performance? This is important.

So it’s safe to say protein is pretty important.

Carbs, on the other hand, also have their role in post-workout recovery. Our bodies like to use carbs for energy – and they use a fair bit! During a workout, much of our stored glycogen is used to power us through our sweat fests. It’s important to ensure those carbs are replenished! You want to have energy to power you through the rest of your day, right? Being able to think clearly is really important 😉

Fats have been a bit demonized when it comes to post-workout nutrition. “FAT SLOWS THE RECOVERY PROCESS! YOU WILL LOSE ALL YOUR MUSCLES IF YOU EAT FAT RIGHT AFTER A WORKOUT!” Or something silly like that.

I’m not here to debate that today. Certain studies have shown that the effect of fat on post-workout protein and carbohydrate absorption is minimal (and I happen to agree), however to keep things simple, let’s just focus our efforts on consuming protein and carbohydrates.

How Much of Each Should You Eat?

…..It depends. Studies have shown that anywhere from 0.2-0.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is optimal for the post-workout window (to get your weight in kg, divide your weight in lb by 2.2). If you’re training for endurance events, to build a little muscle, or to lose a little body fat, falling somewhere in the middle is generally safe. That’s assuming you’re consuming adequate protein throughout the rest of the day.

You may also like:   How to Create a Workout Schedule

For the general fitness aficionado, it’s recommended that 0.8-1 gram of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight is consumed after a workout. A little on the lower side if you’re looking to shed some body fat, a little on the higher side if your main goal is to improve your athletic performance. If you’re training for a specific sport or event your carbohydrate needs will most likely be higher, so you should consult with a sports nutritionist to find your optimal amount! 🙂

what to eat after a workout

From the guys at Precision Nutrition – insulin (which aids the recovery process) is highest when protein and carbohydrates are consumed together after a workout.

Source

To optimize your recovery, aim to get something in your body within 30 minutes. If you wait 31 minutes don’t worry – your hard work hasn’t gone to waste! But the sooner the better.

Some easy options include:

  • A smoothie made with a banana or berries and protein powder
  • A mixture of protein powder and fast-digesting carbohydrate supplements – you can find products like waxy maize powder and dextrose powder, which some athletes SWEAR by. I’ve never used these and, to be honest, they seem a little weird. I stick with a simple post-workout recovery smoothie.
  • Protein pancakes
  • Canned tuna mixed with some chopped veggies and nonfat greek yogurt with crackers on the side

Your perfect post-workout meal will depend on your goals and what you feel like eating after a workout. Can’t stomach the idea of tuna salad after an intense workout? Have a simple smoothie right after, then eat a full meal an hour later. So hungry you could eat your workout partner’s arm? Go for the protein pancakes!

Like I said, we’ve really just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to post-workout nutrition. If you’d like to discuss what your ideal post-workout meal would look like further, feel free to book a complimentary chat with me.

What’s your favourite way to refuel after a workout? Ever heard any funny post-workout nutrition myths you’d like to share??

Pin it for later!

what should you eat after a workout

Showing 39 comments
  • Bri
    Reply

    I usually just fit my workouts in around regular meals, but if I need a snack it’s PB on rice cakes!
    Bri recently posted…How I’m changing up my fitness routine for fallMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Mmm love PB on rice cakes!!! 🙂

  • Tricia@MissSippipiddlin
    Reply

    I love chocolate milk after a good workout!
    Tricia@MissSippipiddlin recently posted…Adsorbion Review + #GiveawayMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      You and me both, sista!

  • Stephanie
    Reply

    I really enjoyed this article and completely agree with you, although I do enjoy my quick protein shake with just protein powder and water right after I weight train 😉 You know you really have a good, tasty protein when it tastes awesome mixed with just water. After runs I like chocolate milk but after weight training I have a protein shake and a pop tart. You are spot on when you say there is so much information out there as to what you should have after a workout, protein and fast absorbing carbs are important, everyone just enjoys something different 🙂
    Stephanie recently posted…So Many Activities, So Little Time!My Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      That is definitely a testament to the quality of your protein powder! I used to do the whey and water thing, but I don’t think my whey was very good because it was scaaaaary. Haha

  • Reply

    I love chocolate milk after a long run or hard workout. I think it’s the perfect mix of carbs and protein. Good tips!
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…My First Client!~ The Husband ProjectMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I agree! Such a great combo. I’m glad you liked them! 🙂

  • Jen @ Pretty Little Grub
    Reply

    Great post Ariana you definitely hit some key points here. Chocolate milk is my favourite post long run thing to have.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…How to Stay Consistent with ExerciseMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Thanks Jen, that means a lot coming from you! 🙂 I think there are a lot of chocolate milk fans here 😉

  • Annmarie
    Reply

    Hahaha those are two of my most asked questions too 😛 Great tips! As you know, I am the protein smoothie queen 😉
    Annmarie recently posted…DVRT: No Crunch Ways To Work Your CoreMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Yes, you are 100% the reigning queen of smoothie creation!

  • Cassi
    Reply

    During the week I don’t eat anything until after I get to work. I am unable to eat at home because of time.
    Cassi recently posted…The Gallbladder Strikes BackMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Ahh that totally makes sense! Have you ever brought along any portable post-workout snacks?

  • Kelli
    Reply

    I’m a chocolate milk fan. Protein pancakes, too. I also like to do eggs with guacamole if I’m trying to have a higher protein re-fuel.
    Kelli recently posted…Woman Crush WednesdayMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Yummmm love me some protein pancakes! And eggs and guac are delicious! Never thought to have them post-workout, but I may have to try that 🙂

  • Toni
    Reply

    great post, I try to have low fat chocolate milk or some type of protein smoothie post workout.
    Toni recently posted…Running in Florida is HardMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Excellent post-workout options! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Jenn
    Reply

    I do love chocolate milk after a long run. But I can be convinced to join in on a sushi feast any time 🙂
    Jenn recently posted…race report: tour de pain – 4 mile beach run {8.7.2015}My Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Haha YES! My arm doesn’t need to be twisted very much for a sushi feast 😉

  • Becki S
    Reply

    I am all about some rewarding myself for cleaning the baseboards or dusting the freaken blinds, however as I’ve gained more knowledge about macros and flexible dieting, those rewards have slightly shifted 😉 I swear though the poptart thing is everywhere, and I want to be into them…I just can’t get into them.
    Becki S recently posted…Breakfast Cookie Recipie and #fitmythMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Haha YES those two tasks totally deserve rewards. I’m with you on the Poptart thing – I bought some last summer and they weren’t as good as I remember them being from when I was 10 haha.

  • Reply

    So this is a great topic. I had been seeing a nutritionist and complaining that I always gain weight when I train for a marathon. When we went through what I was eating he said there was no way I should be gaining weight….I was eating all of the right things…EXCEPT I wasn’t replacing my glycogen stores after my runs. Yes, I was eating, but I was only eating protein and no carbs so my body was holding onto all of the glycogen I ate the rest of the day and turning it to fat. I’ve started replacing my sugar immediately after my runs and what do you know? No weight gain. Shocking, I know 😉
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Sundried Tomato & Feta Freekeh Burgers: Freekeh Review & GiveawayMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Wow what a revelation! I’m so happy you got that sorted out. It can be so frustrating when you’re putting in the work and the weight creeps on, even when your goals aren’t necessarily weight-related.

  • Cristina @triathlonmami
    Reply

    My go to after a workout is chocolate milk. It satisfies my taste buds AND my muscles.
    Cristina @triathlonmami recently posted…Final Race Day: The Camillus House Children’s Run TeamMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I agree 110%!!

  • Reply

    I’ve learned that I recover much better with a high protein snack. I like chocolate protein shakes. They don’t upset my tummy and taste yum.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…AmbitiousMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      It’s amazing how much of a difference the addition of protein can make, hey??

  • Sharita
    Reply

    Awesome post and the detailed reasoning is very helpful! Time to stock up on some chocolate milk!
    Sharita recently posted…Can’t Commit To a Diet? These small hacks can bring BIG results!My Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      I’m happy you found them helpful! Hooray for chocolate milk!!

  • rachel
    Reply

    Great post! I am always learning and growing with my nutrition pre and post workout> 🙂
    rachel recently posted…Weigh In Wednesday – Success!My Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Same here! My nutrition strategies are constantly evolving and I’m always experimenting on myself 😉

  • Farrah
    Reply

    Chocolate milk is definitely one of my favorite super-easy + quick post-workout foods (well. drink. but anyway). I love making my own smoothies too! :]
    Farrah recently posted…My 5 Travel EssentialsMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Yes I can imagine that with a busy schedule like yours convenience is the utmost of importance!

  • Chrissa - Physical Kitchness
    Reply

    I love this post! So informative. I always try to eat lean protein or a protein shake after a workout. Oh and that quote – priceless. It was TOTALLY me when I was pregnant (ok I’m still kinda that way when I’m hungry) 😉
    Chrissa – Physical Kitchness recently posted…The Powerhouse Food You Should Eat – CHARDMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Haha! I can get like that and I’ve never been pregnant, so I feel ya sister 😉

  • Cayanne
    Reply

    Fantastic & informative post! My personal favorite post-workout staple is a large cup of natural, coconut water! When I was living in Panama City I would buy the whole coconut and have the store clerk tap it with a straw. So refreshing and actually would tide me over while I made my post-workout meal
    Cayanne recently posted…It’s Okay to Walk Away From a Workout and Come Back to itMy Profile

    • Ariana
      Reply

      Ooo that sounds amazing!! I was never a huge fan of fresh coconut until I had a real good one from Hawaii – it was amazing!

      • Cayanne
        Reply

        That’s pretty common, actually. I had to beg my mom to try the fresh coconut water – we call it aqua de pipa in Panama – because she was so used to the yucky, non-fresh version. I miss paying a dollar for like a pint of coconut water in its natural shell, but the brand Vita Coco is pretty darn close and I love that I can get it in bulk/ not as expensive at Costco
        Cayanne recently posted…A to Z ~ About Me!My Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge