Nutrition Articles

What to Eat After You Work Out

Refuel and Recover with a Post-Workout Meal or Snack

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Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?

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.

There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You have to eat fewer calories than you use up — but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.

The size, timing, and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after your workout, and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want!

Your 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. Because 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.

Your Post-Exercise Meal or Snack
As long as you’re staying within your overall range for the day, you don’t need to be obsessive about matching the following calorie and nutrient ratios perfectly. Just be careful not to fall into the very common trap of thinking that it’s OK to eat anything and everything in sight because you just worked out. Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need, or choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can do the opposite of what you want—cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout food to refuel and repair your muscles.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • ORANGE-GREEN
    Thanks Dean for this article, I needed this, when I come home after a workout I am so hungry, I'll try your tips. Thank you so much! :) - 11/10/2014 1:15:10 PM
  • NUMEN15
    I was struggling with post workout meals but now I know. Great info! - 10/21/2014 11:27:56 AM
  • Wow. I just did a kettlebell workout, then made an onion and kale omelet on multi-grain toast just before coming across this. I guess I nailed it, lol. - 8/27/2014 10:30:06 AM
  • JCOOPER47
    This was an excellent article. All the foods I have been avoiding I should be eating. - 8/5/2014 11:18:19 AM
  • This is a very informative article. Thank you. - 4/23/2014 1:16:38 PM
  • Post workout meal: Oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter, an egg and some almoond milk.. wow! What a filler - 4/15/2014 10:31:06 AM
  • A great starter is an egg, turkey bacon with peanut butter on 100% whole grain bread. - 4/15/2014 10:29:36 AM
  • Great time to eat my protein bar and/or rice cakes and peanut butter - 2/8/2014 5:48:13 PM
  • KOKOMOROCK
    I normally reach for an apple. - 2/7/2014 4:02:55 PM
  • Happy 2014, JWASHINGTON1031!

    I found several answers for your situation at this discussion site: http://www.
    bikeforums.ne
    t/archive/ind
    ex.php/t-6604
    36.html

    Apparently, maybe Gatorade is too concentrated, and also may have too much sodium and sugar. Some users suggest DILUTING it before drinking. Some recommended a different drink called HEED. Someone else suggested using ENDUROLYTE. Another person gave a good "recipe" for soaking dates and fruit, and using THAT has the base of your own energy/post-worko
    ut drink. I'm going to try some of these myself!

    All the best, and good luck, everyone!

    MsBootcamp - 2/3/2014 2:58:28 PM
  • When I workout I am always sweating twice as much as any of my friends -- not just during exercise, but generally I sweat profusely in heat, etc... My problem during exercise is that I know I should be drinking something with electrolytes to replace minerals lost, but when I consume drinks like Gatorade I get excruciating stomach cramps IMMEDIATELY. Does anyone have any ideas about what I might try instead?? - 10/29/2013 10:47:01 AM
  • I thought it odd that they would push the carbs not the protein. Hmmmmmmm - 10/22/2013 2:43:28 PM
  • COASTAL6
    After my morning walk, I have a protein smoothie with banana, strawberries or blueberries or a protein bar and fruit, 30min. to 60min. after workout. - 10/14/2013 2:28:54 PM
  • JGOGLIN4
    I am thirsty after workout and need just water. Good tips.
    - 9/25/2013 9:12:57 AM
  • Great tips - 9/10/2013 11:21:52 AM

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