Whether you’re a regular gym goer, you love going for runs or there’s a specific workout you like to do in your living room at home, it’s essential that you eat after you exercise.
Having a healthy meal or snack made up of the right kinds of foods will help your body:
- Recover from intense exercise quicker.
- Aid it in building up muscle protein.
- Ensure it repairs any cells which may have been damaged.
- Replenish its glycogen (energy) stores.
The best foods to eat after a workout
When it comes to deciding what to eat after a workout, it will largely depend on what kind of exercise you’ve just done.1
If you’re a fan of endurance workouts where you’re running, swimming or cycling for long periods of time, you’ll want to stick to foods which are high in carbohydrates. This will help you replenish your energy stores and balance out your insulin levels.
Carbs don’t have to be unhealthy, though. Try sticking to whole grain options like whole meal bread, pasta or rice depending on the time of day you’re exercising. Other good carbs to eat after exercise, which also have major health benefits, include oats, pulses, sweet potatoes and leafy green veg.
It’ll also be important to eat a small amount of protein, too, to aid with muscle recovery. Ideally, you should be eating twice as much carbohydrates as protein after you workout, regardless of what type of exercise you’ve done.
If you’re trying to build up muscle or work on your core strength, you’ll want to focus your post-workout meals around protein. Protein is full of amino acids which are needed by our bodies to repair any cells which may have become damaged during exercise.
Protein is also a building block for new cell production, so eating 20g-40g of it after a workout should promote muscle growth. Foods which are rich in protein include things like eggs, oily fish, Greek yoghurt, in addition to plant-based protein powders and bars.
What about water?
Drinking plenty of water before, after and during a workout is crucial as our bodies lose a lot of water and electrolytes when we exercise.2 There’s no exact science as to how much water you should drink; it’ll depend on things like how much you sweat and how thirsty you feel.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Some types of fatty foods are thought by many to slow digestion and prevent your body from absorbing the nutrients it gets post-workout from carbs and protein-rich foods.
Some protein-heavy foods, such as cheese or yoghurt, also contain some fat. Nevertheless, eating a small amount of these immediately after you exercise shouldn’t make much difference to your recovery.
How long after a workout should I wait to eat?
Now you know what to eat after you exercise, it’s worth thinking about exactly when you should eat it!
Ideally, you should have a meal or snack within 45 minutes of working out.3 Your body will reap the benefits of carbs and protein the most during this time, however it’s still possible for them to help with recovery and muscle building up to two hours after you’ve finished exercising.4
Post-workout healthy snack and meal inspiration
After some post-workout nutrition inspiration? Consider tucking into the following meals and snacks after you exercise:
- Oatmeal with plant milk and fresh fruit
- Whole grain toast with avocado or peanut butter
- Chia seed pudding
- Sweet potato and quinoa salad
- Scrambled tofu on whole grain bread
- Poached or boiled eggs on toast
- Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts
Last updated: 16 June 2020