You’re done working out. You are feeling tired, a bit sore and of course hungry. Don’t just eat anything though, because your post workout meal is important.
Your energy supply has been depleted so replenishment is in order. In this guide, we give you a list of the best post workout foods that will fill you up and assist with recovery and muscle growth.
What to Eat Post Workout
- Eggs: it can be hard boiled, poached or sunny side up. Eggs are packed with proteins and great for post workout. You can eat them with bread, lean turkey or just some avocado.
- Wholegrain Cereal: done with your morning workout? Grab some whole grain cereal, but make sure they’ve got fiber, carbs, and protein. Avoid sugary cereals and choose those that replenish and repair your muscles.
- Oatmeal: oatmeal is rich in fiber and carbohydrates, and they’re the perfect companion for a high protein diet or protein powder.
- Protein Shake: if you don’t feel like eating after working out, protein shakes will do. Whey protein is best for post workout while casein is ideal after meals or before going to bed. There are also protein shakes for vegans and come in different flavors.
- Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt has more proteins than the sweetened, commercial yogurt, and it also has the carbohydrates your muscles need. You can eat Greek yogurt as is or top it with fruit.
There are other foods you can eat after working out. You can use the following as a guide. You decide how much or how many to eat.
What’s important is they are consumed not more than two hours after the workout. Immediate consumption is better.
- For Carbs
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Rice cakes
- Kiwi, pineapple, banana and berries
- Sweet potatoes
- Protein bars
- Cottage cheese
- Dried fruits and nuts
- Nut butter
Why Eating after Workouts is Important
To understand why you need the best post workout meal for muscle gain, you have to learn what happens to your body during exercise.
As you work out, your body’s glycogen is utilized as fuel, depriving muscles of glycogen. Intense workouts also damage muscle tissues. Your body repairs these tissues and attempts to replenish the glycogen supply.
Eating the right foods speeds up the repair and replenishment process. Carbohydrates and protein are especially helpful.
Eating after workouts offers the following benefits:
- Enhance recovery
- Replenish glycogen
- Speed up protein synthesis
- Stop muscle breakdown
These benefits are possible only if you eat the right foods. To be specific, they must have protein, carbs and some fat.
What to Eat After a Workout to Build Muscle
Your meals should have lots of protein and carbohydrates. A little fat won’t hurt either as your body needs energy to recover. Here are some suggestions.
- Prepare some multigrain bread and eat some raw peanuts. You can also prepare a bowl quinoa with pecans and berries.
- If you’re in a hurry, a protein shake and a couple of bananas will do.
- We have already mentioned Greek yogurt, but another way to serve it is with granola and berries.
- If you’d like a larger meal, grill chicken and pair it with your favorite vegetables. For extra flavor and better results, roast the veggies.
- Egg omelets are filled with protein and taste great. However, you’ll receive nutrients by adding some avocado on top.
- There are many other meals we can recommend such as skim milk and cereal, wholegrain toast with almond butter, and crackers topped with peanut butter. Hummus and pita make for great post workout snacks too.
Post Workout Meal Recipes
Egg Rice Bowl
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup instant rice
- 8 egg whites
- Rice seasoning
Put rice in water and microwave for 5 minutes (high, covered). Let the rice sit for 5 minutes, still covered. Put a nonstick, medium sized pan over medium to high heat. Apply nonstick spray and throw in the eggs. Stir until eggs are cooked. Add rice, stir and cook some more. Add as much seasoning as you like.
This meal is good for a single serving. You get 23 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, 45 grams of carbs, 327 calories and 1 gram of fat.
- Half a cup of rolled oats
- A cup of blueberries
- 1 ½ cups of milk
- 2 tbsp. of flaxseed
Combine the milk, flax, and oats in a bowl. Microwave for a couple of minutes and stir. Microwave again for a couple of minutes and put the blueberries on top.
This meal is good for one serving. You get 516 calories, 30 grams of protein, 17 grams of fiber, 62 grams of carbs and 17 grams of fat.
Simple Sloppy Joe
- 1 sprouted-grain bun
- 3 tbsp. ketchup
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 90% lean 5 oz. ground beef
- Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- Pepper (optional)
Set cooktop to medium to high heat and put a nonstick pan over it. Put the chopped onion and beef in it. Use a spatula to stir until it browns. Add the ketchup and tomato paste (and the Worcestershire sauce and pepper if you want).
Stir the ingredients thoroughly then lower the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes or until the beef is ready. Place on a bun and serve. Don't forget to enjoy this delicious post workout meal.
A single serving has 473 calories, 43 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 59 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat.
Chicken with Sweet Potatoes
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup cubed sweet potato
- 1 cup cubed chicken breast
- Caribbean Jerk seasoning
Prepare a nonstick pan. Set to medium to high heat. Put olive oil, Caribbean Jerk seasoning, and chicken in the pan. Stir and make sure all the chicken’s sides are cooked.
While the chicken cooks put the broccoli florets and the sweet potatoes in a bowl. Put a paper towel over the bowl and microwave for 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the microwave and put the vegetables in the skillet. Stir and lower heat to medium. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender (use a fork to check) and chicken is well cooked.
This meal is good for one serving. You get 50 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 34 grams of carbs, 15 grams of fat and 466 calories.
Maple Oat Cookies
- ¼ cup maple syrup combined with half a cup of water
- ⅓ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
- 3 scoops of whey protein powder
- 2 ½ cups rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350 F. Put the chocolate chips, protein powder, and oats in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add the peanut butter to the bowl and mix with the other ingredients.
Stir the maple syrup and water until the consistency is thick. Make 5 cookies and bake for ten minutes.
This recipe is good for 5 servings. Each one has 415 calories, 22 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 51 grams of carbs and 16 grams of fat.
You can mix and match the following and have them as your post workout snack:
- Cottage cheese
- Tuna salad
Why You Need Carbs Post Workout
A good post workout snack should have carbohydrates. Without carbs, it will take longer for your body to replenish, slowing down your recovery time. Intense workouts deplete glycogen stores quickly. Aerobics, weightlifting, swimming and sprinting use up glycogen.
For glycogen re-synthesis, take 0.5–0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. You can take it 30 minutes after working out.
You’ll get even better results when you combine carbohydrates with protein. These two stimulate insulin secretion which leads to glycogen synthesis. Bottom line: consuming glycogen and protein optimizes recovery and muscle growth.
The ideal ratio is 3 carbs to 1 protein. So if you’re taking 120 grams of carbs, 40 grams of protein will suffice. Those who work out twice a day will require more carbs. But if you have a rest day or two, it is not as urgent.
Why You Need Protein Post Workout
As we have pointed out, workouts lead to muscle breakdown. Eating protein rich foods provides your body with the nutrients necessary to repair those muscles. Protein is also the building block of amino acids, which allows your body to build new and bigger muscles.
The ideal protein consumption is 0.14–0.23 grams per pound of body weight. Consuming 20 to 40 grams of protein is also appropriate for heavy workouts. Eat as soon as possible after working out.
Why You Need Fat Post Workout
One of the biggest myths is that healthy post workout snacks must be fat-free. The belief is that fat has an adverse effect on nutrition absorption and it slows digestion. Fat may slow digestion a little, but the effect is negligible.
A meal with high fats (up to 45%) post workout won’t affect glycogen synthesis. This isn’t an excuse to binge on fats. However, it won’t hurt to include fats in your post workout snacks.
When is the Right Time to Eat after Workout?
We have established that eating after workouts is important. But is there a specific time frame? For the best results, you should eat as soon as possible.
You can eat any of the meals as long as they’re rich in protein and carbs, but you’ll get benefits if you eat no later than 45 minutes after working out.
Do not put off the consumption because it’s going to reduce the efficiency of glycogen synthesis. Not eating two hours after working out cuts down glycogen rates by as much as 50%.
Water is Important Too
There are lots of energy drinks, but water is still one of the best, pre, during and post workout. Apart from having the best post workout food, you must be properly hydrated so you’re always at peak level during workouts. After workouts, water replenishes your body.
Workouts lead to bodily water loss, and water is an effective way to replenish your system. You get the same benefits after the workout. Water post workout or other energy drinks are necessary if your next exercise is 12 hours away.
Whole Food vs. Supplements
You can’t look for the best post workout drink online without running into the question of which is better, nutritional supplements or whole foods. The answer is they’re both good.
The advantage of whole food is they have not been processed, untreated and haven’t been subjected to any alterations. However, supplements or liquid foods offer the same benefits. They’re also easy to digest and have all the nutrients you need.
Another benefit of liquid meals is their rapid absorption rate. The best post workout carbs and supplements have whey hydrolysates and isolates, allowing your body to absorb the nutrients more quickly. In contrast, whole foods take longer.
A typical supplement takes 30 minutes to full absorption, while meals require 2 to 3 hours.
For others, the slow absorption rate isn’t an issue since it is post workout. If it is for pre-workout, the absorption speed will be an issue. In this case however, it isn’t a big deal as what is more important is the nutrients your body gets.
Whether you opt for supplements or whole food, the timing is always critical, so follow the window of opportunity given above.
We put a lot of effort during workouts that what happens afterward is often an afterthought. That is a mistake because your post workout meal can accelerate your progress, whether it is for weight loss or muscle gain.
It’s not just about how you work out, but also what you do after that matter. Keep eating healthy and nutritious meals and you’ll be rewarded with a good physique.