Eating after a workout is also known as recovery nutrition. The foods you eat after a workout can have a significant impact on how your body responds to the workout and how your body adapts. Physical adaptations include improvements in strength and cardiovascular fitness. After an intense workout it is essential to provide the best nutrients for the building and repair of muscle and to replenish fuel stored in the muscle. All of the physical gains from a difficult workout can be easily negated just by stopping at the local donut shop and scarfing down a powdered donut and sugar filled latte. Another mistake many people make is not eating anything for hours after a workout. This may be in an effort to save calories, but this effort can be futile. Skipping the post-exercise meal or snack can lead to poor strength gains and feeling tired for subsequent workouts. Skipping on recovery nutrition can also lead to overeating later in the day.
The nutritional goal of recovery nutrition is to refuel, replace muscle glycogen, and provide protein for muscle building and repair. In general, the recommendation is to begin the refueling process within 30-60 minutes after exercise. For many people this may be timing a meal to fall immediately after a workout. Others may not be hungry for a meal immediately after a workout and prefer to eat a recovery snack, followed by a meal within 2 hours after the workout. It all depends on an individual’s goals and the intensity and duration of a workout. Recovery nutrition is less critical following a 30 minute, moderate intensity workout.
For any high intensity workout lasting an hour or longer follow these goals for recovery nutrition:
- Recovery nutrition should include protein to build and repair muscle
- Replace muscle fuel utilized during a workout
- Restore fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat
- Begin nutrition recovery within 15-60 minutes following a workout
- Fruit and yogurt smoothie
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Apple or banana with nut butter and low fat milk
- Handful of trail mix
- Grilled chicken with a small baked sweet potato and green beans
- 2-3 scrambled eggs with 2 slices of whole wheat toast and a bowl of mixed berries
- Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with an apple and glass of milk
- Baked fish with quinoa and a side salad