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Refuelling your body with proper nutrients by eating a post-workout meal, is essential to making the most of your exercise routine. But what meals incorporate all the essential nutrients your body needs to properly refuel and rebuild? In this article, we’ll break down the science of why you need to eat after a workout and the best ways of doing that with a list six best easy, go-to meals.

Why Do I Need a Post-Workout Meal in the First Place?

When you work out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel and become partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged. So, after your workout, your body is in the process of trying to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair its muscle proteins. Therefore, eating the right nutrients 45 minutes - 2 hours after you exercise can help your body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
  • Increase muscle growth.
  • Restore glycogen stores.
  • Enhance recovery.

What Nutrients Should My Post-Workout Meal Have?

1. Protein

Protein helps to repair and build muscle. By eating an adequate amount of protein after a workout, you give your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins so you can better build new muscle tissue. After intensive strength training workouts, experts recommend eating about 20–40 grams of protein. And, with four ounces of chicken at 30 grams of protein, these numbers are easy enough to achieve.

Some Examples of Protein Rich Foods Include

  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Turkey or chicken
  • Salmon or tuna
  • Peanut butter
  • Tofu

2. Carbs

Carbs can help you recover and rebuild your depleted glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise. If you are completing endurance heavy sports like running or swimming, you will end up using more glycogen and thus might need to consume more carbs. Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often. But, if you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts then this becomes less important.

Some Examples of Carbohydrate Rich Foods Are:

  • Chia seed pudding
  • Fruit
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain bread
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables

3. Fat

While eating fat after a workout can slightly slow digestion, it does not reduce the benefits of the nutrients of the post-workout meal. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in healthy fats improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease and may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Foods High In Healthy Fats:

  • Avocado
  • Flax seeds
  • Nuts

Simple Easy Post-Workout Meals

Now, let’s put it all together! To create a balanced post-workout meal that gives you all the protein, carbs, and fats you need, try consuming a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein).
Your post-workout meal doesn't have to be complicated or contain expensive shakes or supplements. Rather, you should also try to eat whole foods packed with other micronutrients. Here are 6 simple, easy go-to meals to eat after your workout:

1. Protein Rich Smoothie

Post-Workout Meal: 6 Best Foods to Eat After a Workout

With a wide array of flavours, ingredients and supplements to choose from, smoothies are a great way to load up on energy and balanced nutrition while not sacrificing on flavour. As far as post-workout smoothies are concerned, you’ll want to load up on greens, fruits and protein. Combine ingredients like kale or spinach (high in iron, vitamins and nutrients), bananas (excellent sources of energy-boosting carbs, potassium and vitamin B6), almond milk, chia and/or flax seeds (high in energy-boosting omega-3 fats) and almond butter.

2. Peanut Butter Banana Toast

Bananas are a great post-workout snack that provides carbs and potassium, two muscle-friendly, post-workout nutrients. And, better yet they can be enjoyed on their own or spiced up and served on toast with peanut butter and sprinkle with hemp seeds.

3. Fruit & Nut Oatmeal Bowl

Post-Workout Meal: 6 Best Foods to Eat After a Workout

Enjoy the comforting but healthy carbs from oatmeal after a workout to replenish your glycogen stores. You can cook up a batch of hot oatmeal in a flash. And, because of its relatively basic flavour, feel free to spruce up your oatmeal with all kinds of flavours and textures. You can add protein powder, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, seeds and nuts like almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds that are loaded with protein and healthy fats.

4. Sweet Potato Toast

Sweet potatoes bring carbs, fibre and potassium to the table, assisting in the post-workout recovery department. Thinly slice sweet potatoes into bread thick pieces and pop in the toaster or oven to cook. Once done, add your favourite toppings like peanut butter and banana or hummus and radishes!

5. Poached Egg & Avocado Toast

Post-Workout Meal: 6 Best Foods to Eat After a Workout

Eggs are a source of highly bioavailable protein, which helps to replenish and increase muscle stores after exercising. Add avocado and whole grain toast, and you have yourself a perfectly balanced macronutrient meal. Avocado contains healthy fats and vitamins. Try sprinkling some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and shaved kale or spinach on top. These add-ons are great sources of healthy fats, B vitamins and iron.

6. Cottage Cheese & Fruit

Cottage cheese is one of the top protein gram for gram foods. And it has leucine, which has been proven to help with building and maintaining muscle post-workout. Super easy to serve, spoon out your desired amount of cottage cheese and top with your fruit of choice.

Putting It All Together

Eating the appropriate nutrients post-workout lets you maximize the hard work you just put your body through. Consuming both carbs and protein will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery and enhance performance during your next workout.

More Digestion & Nutrition Content

  1. 4 Healthy Breakfasts That Provide Energy All Day Long
  2. Which Foods Make Arthritis Worse?
  3. 4 Healthy Recipes From a Fibromyalgia Diet Plan
  4. 5 Swaps to Decrease Sugar In Your Diet.
  5. How to Kick Start Weight Loss Before Summer.
  6. 5 Delicious Healthy Smoothie Recipes to Start Your Day.
  7. 6 Foods That Target Inflammation.

Sources:

  1. Healthline, Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout
  2. SELF, What to Eat Before and After a Workout, According to a Registered Dietitian
  3. Healthline, What Are the Best Foods to Eat After an Intense Workout?
  4. Food Network, These Are the 10 Best Foods to Eat After a Workout
  5. Men’s Health, 9 Post-Workout Foods That Will Help You Build Muscle and Recover Faster
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