Fitness and Health

Fitness and health go hand in hand, and this section of our health library is devoted to exploring the relationship between these two very important aspects of life.

Here's What to Eat After A Workout

Working out can be half the battle, the other half is in the kitchen. Find out which foods are best to eat after working out and which ones you should definitely steer clear of.


Although a workout may seem like the toughest part, the nutrition afterwards is just as critical. Here is what to eat and not to eat after a workout.

What NOT to Eat After a Workout

When choosing those post-workout foods, also think of the type of workout that was just completed. Oftentimes, individuals think they burned more calories than what they actually did and overcompensate with food. A one-hour strength training workout would need more post-fuel than a 15-minute brisk walk. This notion is considerably important if weight loss is desired.

Extensively, do not reward yourself after a hard workout by running through a drive thru or grabbing a big box of cookies. After the body has worked so hard to burn calories and target muscles, filling it back with greasy, fatty foods may be detrimental.

What to Eat After a Workout

Unlike popular belief, you do not have to go slam down a protein shake right after a workout. It is important to understand gorging yourself on protein is not the most appropriate way to refuel the body post-workout. Most look to mass amounts of protein as the best way to get lean and build muscle. Although protein can in fact do so, protein needs are not as liberal as most realize or once thought to be.

If protein is not used for immediate use, its excess can get turned into fat or processed and excreted through the renal system, which can be really tough and possibly damaging to the kidneys. In general, active males and females need about 60 and 50 grams of protein, respectively. Protein needs do vary among individuals and are dependent on age, sex, activity level, muscle mass, and certain health conditions. Additionally, The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Nonetheless, protein shakes are certainly convenient. However, there are other food sources to help achieve protein intakes and needs. One 3-ounce portion of lean chicken provides 21 grams, an 8-ounce container of yogurt contains 11 grams, and a glass of milk has 8 grams. Furthermore, pairing protein with healthy carbohydrates should be strived for. After a hard workout, the body is typically depleted of glucose (the body's primary fuel source) and glycogen (a form of glucose storage in the body). Chocolate milk is an excellent, simple post-workout fuel as it contains healthy carbs and protein. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to pricier protein shakes and just as convenient.

Post-Workout Timing

The previous thought was this: without immediately replenishing the body with healthy carbs and protein, muscle synthesis and glycogen stores would be compromised and the workout would be completely pointless. Whilst in that notion, exercisers would anxiously run to a post-workout meal or shake within 30 minutes of activity to support muscle building and glucose and glycogen reloading. Although nourishing the body following a workout is important, the window of opportunity is now lengthened. New research shows that window far surpasses that 30-minute timeframe, even suggesting a post-workout fuel opening of 4 to 6 hours.

When it really comes down to post-workout meals, follow practices that work best in your schedule and try to get a better understanding of what you're trying to achieve. Unless an elite athlete or bodybuilder, chugging down protein shakes is somewhat unnecessary. If a protein shake is the most suitable, by all means pack one. However, there are several food sources that provide ample amounts of protein and sufficient carbohydrates. Be sure to stay hydrated with water, too, to prevent muscle cramping and dehydration. Sports drinks filled with electrolytes can be also beneficial after a long, sweaty workout. Just be mindful of the calorie and sugar content on the nutrition label.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on April 24, 2016. Updated on May 04, 2016.


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