Why does it matter?
Working out what to eat post workout is just as important as what you eat before your session. When you exercise the glycogen stores in your muscles are used and some of your muscles are also broken down or damaged. After exercising your body tries to replenish these stores and repair your muscles. It is recommended to eat plenty of carbs and protein after a workout for a number of reasons including restoring glycogen stores; promoting recovery; increase muscle growth and decreasing muscle protein breakdown.
Protein helps repair and build muscle. As exercise starts to breakdown muscle protein it is important to eat a good amount of protein shortly after a session. It is recommended to eat 0.14-0.23g / lb of body weight (0.3-0.5g/kg of body weight. Complete Proteins, animal-based protein, quinoa, and soy, contain the essential amino acids needed in your body to repair and rebuild, they also provide the building blocks needed to build new muscle. This is especially important if you are trying to achieve hypertrophy and increase muscle size.
Carbohydrates contain glucose which helps to replenish glycogen stores that have been used up in training. The rate your body uses glycogen depends on the sport, for example endurance sports such as long-distance running, cycling, or swimming use more glycogen than resistance training such as weightlifting and calisthenics. Therefore, if you are doing more endurance exercises you may need more carbs than those doing resistance training. Eating 0.5-0.7g / lb of body weight (1.1-1.5g / kg) within 30 mins of training will best help with glycogen resynthesis.
Whilst most people think that eating fats after a workout can be detrimental, this is not true. A study by PubMed Central has shown that even when eating a high fat meal, 45% energy from fats, after exercising there was no effect on muscle glycogen synthesis.
A good way to hit these recommended nutrients after a workout is in a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio, e.g., 120g carbs and 40g protein.
It is recommended to eat your post workout meal within 45 minutes of finishing your exercise as your bodies abilities to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after exercise. However, if you have eaten before training the benefits from that meal are still working after your workout.
Here’s some good foods to try:
Choosing foods that are easily digested will make nutrient absorption happen faster. Here is a list of some example foods:
- Sweet Potato
- Chocolate milk
- Dark leafy greens such as, rocket, spinach, kale
- Protein Powder
- Greek Yoghurt
- Nuts and Nut Butters
Examples of post workout meals include:
- Grilled Chicken and Veg
- Salmon and Sweet Potato
- Porridge, Protein Powder and Nuts
- Cereal and Milk
- Pita bread and Hummus
It is also important to drink plenty of water, before during and after a workout, this keeps you hydrated. As you sweat you lose water and electrolytes, replacing these after exercise will help with recovery and future performance especially if your next session is within 12 hours of your last. It is recommended to drink at least 2 litres of water a day with an additional 1 litre per hour of exercise done.
You should try to eat a meal within 45 minutes of exercise in a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio. Something simple like egg on toast will do or if you’re feeling adventurous why don’t you try out some new recipes. This will help your body rebuild and recover and help you get the most out of your post-workout meal. Pair this with plenty of hydration throughout the day for maximised results.