What to eat after a workout

Dave Mercer Fitness Programme Manager Having completed my Sports Science degree specialising in Biomechanics in 2005 and having worked with the British Hockey team for the 2004 Athens Olympics I knew that sports, exercise and health was my passion. Throughout my various roles, from PT to Programme Manager, I have enjoyed and thrived on the ability to change people’s lives for the better and take their goals on as my own. There's no better feeling than knowing you have benefitted someone’s life and this still drives me day to day. More by this author
After a workout, food can help you to repair, refuel and recover.

When you exercise the body naturally uses its glycogen stores as their fuel source. It may have also broken down and damaged the proteins in your muscle.

While this may seem great as you are using calories, post-workout nutrition is vital to rebuild, repair and replenish those muscle proteins and rebuild your glycogen stores.

What to eat after a workout

Carbohydrates and protein are the main sources of fuel to take in after your workout.

Ideally eating in a ratio of 2-3:1 works well and will help replenish the body (120g carbohydrate to 40g protein is a good rule of thumb). While fats are seen as a negative to take in post-workout due to slowing the process of absorbing the rest of your meal, it should not reduce the benefits.

Protein

Protein's main purpose in post-workout meals is to provide the amino acids that give the building blocks to build new muscle tissue and to repair and rebuild the proteins broken down during your workout.

Studies have shown that 20-40 grams of protein after exercise will maximise the body’s recovery. 


20g of protein can be found in any of these foods:
  • 500ml milkshake
  • Natural yoghurt-based fruit smoothie
  • Wholegrain bread with lean meats, eggs or low fat cheese
  • Greek yoghurt, granola and mixed berries.

Complex carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrates post-workout will help the body to restore its glycogen stores, but eating both carbohydrates and protein post workout will allow the body to repair and recover faster than just taking in either individually. It’s best to have a balanced post workout meal to make sure the body recovers as quickly as possible.

Complex carbohydrates are those which take longer to process meaning energy will last longer and you can feel fulfilled for longer.

Post-workout, simple carbs can be beneficial as they will help the body replenish its glycogen stores quickly; however, they are a double edged sword as they also affect your insulin levels. It's best to manage your intake of these simple carbohydrates along with your other nutrition to make sure you don’t over indulge post-workout.

A minimum of 1g of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight is a good general guide. This can be found in:

  • Two slices of wholegrain bread
  • Two handfuls of wholegrain pasta
  • Two handfuls of brown basmati rice

When to eat post-workout

If you have eaten before your workout then the timing of your post workout meal is less important; however, if you have completed a fasting workout then try to eat a recovery meal within 45 minutes to make sure your body is replenished in glycogen and starts the recovery and repair process.

Should you eat after a workout if you're not hungry?

After a tough workout you may feel less like eating. This is because a build-up of acids in your body after intense workouts can lead to loss of appetite and nausea in some cases. 

If you have a low appetite after working out you can have a shake instead. Try our very berry shake recipe, which contains a good blend of carbohydrates and protein with some fluids to help you recover.

Stay hydrated

Always remember to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to provide stamina and replace fluids lost through sweating.

Best post-workout snacks:

  • Omelette with vegetables
  • Grilled chicken with sweet potato
  • Oats, whey protein and a banana
  • Protein shake with some fruit (why not try our very berry shake recipe?)
  • Multi grain toast with a nut butter

Very Berry Shake recipe

  • One cup of coconut milk
  • ½ a cup of frozen or fresh berries
  • One frozen or fresh banana
  • ¼ of a cup of chia seeds
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • Handful of almonds or cashews
  • One scoop of protein powder
  • One teaspoon of honey

Blend and enjoy!

Key takeaway

Eating the right balance of protein and carbohydrate after your workout will mean you decrease the muscle protein breakdown, increase muscle protein synthesis (growth of the muscle), restore the glycogen stores and it can also reduce the time it takes for the body to recover.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Chicken wrap with veg

What to eat before a workout

What you eat before a workout can make a big difference to your performance and results.

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