What you eat after you exercise is just as important as what you eat before. Properly refueling after you work out can help you build muscle, recover more quickly, and just feel better overall.
Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or have been working out regularly for ages, here’s what you need to know about post-workout nutrition, and which foods you should snack on after your sweat session.
Why Is Post-Workout Nutrition Important?
When you work out, your muscles use their glycogen energy stores for fuel. This is what gives you the energy you need to get through your exercise session. However, those stores will be depleted by the time you’re done. If you don’t replenish them with the proper food sources, you might feel extra tired and fatigued for the next day or two.
During intense exercise, some of your muscle proteins might also get damaged. This often happens during strength workouts at the gym, especially if you’re focused on building muscle. While this is good in the long run because it helps you get stronger, it can cause soreness and discomfort during recovery.
An ideal post-workout snack should contain protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Carbs will help restore your glycogen levels quickly, while protein helps your muscles repair any damage caused during exercise. Healthy fats, from sources like avocado and olive oil, can also help repair muscles and make you feel full for longer.
It’s recommended that you eat your post-workout meal within 45 minutes of finishing your run or workout, although you’ll still see positive benefits for up to two hours after exercise.
Some good carbohydrate-rich foods to eat after a workout include sweet potatoes, quinoa, oatmeal, and fruit. Protein options include protein powder, yogurt, salmon, or eggs. Some healthy fats to consume include avocados, coconut oil, flax seeds, or nut butter.
The best post-workout meal will have a combination of all three nutrient groups. For example, you might eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread, a plate of grilled chicken and vegetables, or yogurt with some berries and granola.
However, people on the go can’t always sit down for a full meal after they work out. Fortunately, there are many ready-to-eat products you can keep in your gym bag to enjoy after exercising.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential acids we have to consume via food. They’ve been proven to increase muscle growth, decrease soreness, and reduce fatigue after exercise. While BCAAs are naturally found in many high-protein foods, like eggs and dairy products, you can also get them from a supplement.
This BCAA powder supplement is well-rated, affordable, and easy to drink after a workout. It contains seven grams of BCAAs, but no sugar or carbs. Scoop some into an empty bottle before you head to the gym, and then just add water after your workout and drink it on the go.
The most popular post-workout snack is the classic protein shake. As we mentioned previously, getting in plenty of protein after a workout will help you rebuild your muscles and reduce soreness.
Fairlife Core Power Protein Shakes are extremely popular in the fitness community. They taste great (no chalky aftertaste), contain a minimal amount of sugar, and offer 26 grams of protein in each bottle.
They’re also made with ultra-filtered milk, which naturally offers all nine essential amino acids, while also being lactose-free for sensitive stomachs.
Plant-Based Protein Shakes
If you prefer a dairy-free protein shake, turn to Evolve. These plant-based shakes contain a little less protein per bottle than Fairlife (20 grams versus 26 grams), but it’s still more than enough to keep your muscles happy after a long workout.
A great option for vegan athletes, these shakes are also a good source of calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc, all of which vegans can have trouble getting from their diet. They also pack 10 grams of fiber in each serving, which will keep you full long after you enjoy the shake. But the best part is the rich, chocolate flavor! They taste pretty amazing.
If you need something more substantial than a drink that’s still portable, turn to trail mix. Filled with healthy fats, carbs, and a decent amount of protein, this hiker’s treat is a great option to have waiting in your car after the gym.
There are plenty of trail mix options out there, but most contain a lot of candy, which won’t help you much after exercising. To get the most out of your workout, you’ll need to be picky about which brand you choose.
Power Up Trail Mix is immensely popular due to its short ingredients list and limited additives. Each mix contains only dried fruits and roasted nuts, along with some seeds for a substantial and satisfying snack.
If you’re not a fan of shakes but still want a high dose of protein after working out, grab a protein bar. Portable and tasty, these treats are perfect for keeping in your gym bag, car, or office drawer. Many protein bars are glorified candy bars, but as long as you avoid those with too much sugar, you should be fine.
Quest Protein Bars have been a favorite among gym-goers for years, thanks to their variety of delicious flavors. Each bar contains 21 grams of protein, 14 grams of fiber, and only one gram of sugar. Pair one with a banana and you have an ideal post-workout snack.
Roasted Fava Beans
Shake up your post-workout nutrition game with a snack that might surprise you. Bada Bean Bada Boom is a roasted fava bean treat that sounds much stranger than it is. Think of it as an extension of the roasted chickpeas and kale chips trend from a few years ago.
Roasted fava beans have a mild flavor that’s barely distinguishable under tasty seasonings, like buffalo wings and sweet cinnamon. But the real kicker is each bag contains only 300 calories, while providing you with 21 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber in a super-filling snack. It’s a great product to nosh on in the car as you head home from the gym.
Eating the right food after you exercise can help you build more muscle and feel less tired from your workout. These tasty snacks are all easy to toss in your gym bag, so you’ll be sure to get all the post-workout nutrition you need.