EATING AFTER YOUR WORKOUT
Your goals for a post-workout meal or snack should be to recover, rehydrate, refuel, build muscle, and improve future performance. Some people feel like they should eat something immediately after a workout, but it’s really only necessary to eat something within 2 hours. This, of course, will depend on what you ate prior to your workout (and it’s intensity).
If your pre-workout meal or snack was small, several hours before exercise, or you exercised on an empty stomach, then it’s probably more important to enjoy your post-workout meal or snack fairly quickly – within an hour.
If you ate a normal-sized meal a couple of hours before your workout or a smaller snack right beforehand, then you have a full, one to two hours after exercise to maximize the benefits of workout nutrition.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR POST-WORKOUT MEAL OR SNACK
Eating protein after exercise prevents muscle breakdown and stimulates muscle synthesis. It’s not necessary to consume fast-acting protein powders to get the most benefit – any good quality protein will do. Ideally, women should consume about 1 palm of protein (20-30 grams) and men should consume 2 palms of protein (40-60 grams). Enjoy good quality animal proteins like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, or yogurt; or plant-based proteins like legumes, intact grains, nuts, and protein powder.
Carbohydrates are a bit less important after your workout than they are before your workout, but you still need to consume some. Stick with low-glycemic carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables or intact grains in order to stabilize your blood sugar over the next 4-5 hours. If you’re having a meal, aim for 3-4 handfuls of vegetables, fruits, and grains and try for 1-2 handfuls if you’re having a snack.
Fats are important to include after your workout, especially if you tend to feel hungry or have cravings later in the day. Fats will help slow the digestion of your entire meal and make you feel full longer. Include high quality fats like nuts, seeds, nut butter, whole fat dairy, oils, avocado, and coconut. Aim for 1-2 thumbs for a snack and 3-4 thumbs for a meal.
Overall, it’s important to make sure your diet as a whole contains enough nutrition to sustain muscle growth and good energy. Your pre- and post-workout meals and snacks are mainly there to support good blood sugar stability so you’ll have energy for an intense workout and be able to avoid hunger cravings later in the day.
Best of luck during your workouts! What are your favorite post-workout snacks?