Nutrition Articles

What to Eat After You Work Out

Refuel and Recover with a Post-Workout Meal or Snack

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So what does the ideal meal or snack look like?
  • Calories. 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.
     
  • Carbohydrates. 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 the whole grains and fiber that are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, this 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.
     
  • Protein. While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25% of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that's about 10-15 grams for most people.
     
  • Fat. 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.

The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next workout.
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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

  • 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
  • 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
  • i always brought a low carb pita with white meat chicken, lettuce and tomato. about an hour after that i would snack on a large apple. and water through out the whole morning work out too - 9/9/2013 6:48:40 PM
  • Ack! I didn't read all the comments - but that graphic has at least one typo! CEREAL! Please! - 9/9/2013 2:09:44 PM

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