Post-Workout Nutrition: What Should I Be Eating?
Although the gyms are closed, many of us have taken up running and walking, which is a great way to be active and a great way to get your steps in! Lots of us have also swapped dumbbells for water bottles and swapped the gym floor for the living room floor. But whatever exercise you’re doing, as long as you’re moving, you’re onto a winner!
You put a lot of effort into your workouts, always looking to perform better and reach new goals. Chances are you have probably given more thought to your pre-workout meal or coffee, to get you going, but are forgetting about your post-workout meal. However, post-workout nutrition is just as important…but what should we be eating?
To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to understand how your body is affected by physical activity. When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged.
After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.
Doing this helps your body:
- Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
- Restore glycogen stores.
- Enhance recovery.
Protein helps repair and build muscle
As explained above, exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate at which this happens depends on the exercise and your level of training. However, consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also helps new muscle tissue to build and muscles to grow stronger. It’s recommended that you consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) very soon after a workout.
Good post-workout protein includes:
- Animal- or plant-based protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bar
Carbs help with recovery
Lots of people think that carbs are bad. However, our body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after you workout helps replenish them. The rate at which your glycogen stores are used is dependent on the level of activity. So, if you are participating in endurance sports (running), you may need to consume higher carbs than others.
Good post-workout carbs include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
- Rice cakes
- Wholemeal Pasta
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
Fat is not bad!
Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits. For example, a study showed that whole milk was more
It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.
Good fats include:
- Nut butters
- Trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)