What To Eat After You Workout
First off, the ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, this is when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next workout. Studies have shown that the two hours after exercise are the most critical for post-workout nutrition for muscle growth, repair, and recovery.
Things to consider
Do not eat more than you just put out with your exercise.
Don't think you can eat just anything because you worked out.
If you're eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories to support your activity level, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels, and experience to tell you whether you need to eat anything before or after exercise and what it should be. The basic rule here is: Find out what works best for you, and do that!
Things to Know
Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal 50% of the calories you burned during your workout. So if you burn about 600 calories during your workout, try to eat 300 calories afterward.
Don't worry about undoing the calorie-burning benefits of your workout, that's not how weight loss works. As long as you're eating within your recommended calorie range (whether for weight loss or maintenance), you'll be on your way to reaching your goals.
Roughly 60% of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace the muscle fuel (glycogen) you used up and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need more around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised.
If you have some favorite high-carb foods that are lacking in whole grains and fiber, which are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, post-workout is a good time to have them! Your body can digest refined carbohydrates faster during your "refueling window," but if you're a whole foods foodie, don't force yourself to eat processed foods. Eat what works for you.
While carbs are essential, it's also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. Protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. Did you know that about 25% of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein? That's about 10-15 grams for most people.
Fat doesn't play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won't help your weight control or fitness endeavors. Only 15% (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat. That's less than 10 grams.
Sample Food Combinations for your Post Exercise Meals:
Dried fruit and nuts
Low fat or fat free cottage cheese with fruit
Fruit juice with cheese
Yogurt with fruit (preferably Activia or the likes of it)
Chocolate milk (that is high in protein)
Cereal with milk (shredded wheat)
Oatmeal with berries
Eggs and high fiber toast
Turkey, chicken, or roast beef sandwich
Crackers with low fat cheese
Smoothie (with added whey protein powder)
Energy bar high in protein
Whole wheat pancakes and eggs
Peanut butter (organic) & banana on high fiber toast
Yogurt & berries
Apple wedges & peanut butter
Low fat or fat free cheese & whole grain crackers
Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch, and vegetables
Post-Exercise Fluid Needs
Most moderate exercisers will lose about one quart (4 cups) of fluid per hour of exercise, so try to drink about 16-20 ounces of water shortly after your workout to aid the recovery process.
If you sweat a lot or the weather is hot and/or humid, consider weighing yourself before and after exercise, and drinking an ounce of water for every ounce of weight you've lost. Heavy sweating also causes loss of minerals and electrolytes, consider using a sports drink with electrolytes if you need to replace more than 2-3 cups of fluid. If you are a post Gatorade drinker, then dilute it with 1/2 water.
Rule of Thumb... After you exercise, your body needs to replace the lost glycogen stores (i.e. muscle fuel) for building and repairing muscle. Combining protein and carbohydrates will promote post-workout recovery.
As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important thing is getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so that you can give it what it needs to perform at its best.
Eating the right things at the right times after you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high, and your body in fat-burning mode. Choose wisely, though, or you surely will undo your hard work! And don't forget to re-hydrate!