Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat and When to Eat

Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat and When to Eat

By Laura Legend RD, LDN, CPT

Fueling after a hard training session is just as important to performance as your pre-workout nutrition. To recover quickly and repair your muscles for your next session, aim to include both carbohydrates and protein in your post-workout meal. Just remember, when it comes to post-workout nutrition keep the 3 Rs in mind: refuel, rebuild and rehydrate.

What should I eat after I workout? 

Refuel with carbohydrates to restore muscle glycogen (stored energy). Without glycogen, your muscles won’t have the fuel sources to perform at their maximum potential. When compared to protein and fat, carbohydrates are a more efficiently broken down and metabolized form of energy for the body. Generally, 1-1.2 g/kg of carbohydrates is recommended in the initial post-workout meal. However, your needs may vary, so consider consulting a nutrition expert like myself or one of MightyMeals’ MightyFIT Nutrition Experts.

Rebuild to help repair muscle tissue and reduce muscle breakdown after exercise; consuming the right amount of protein is key. Post-workout consumption of protein helps stimulate protein synthesis. This aids in repairing and rebuilding your muscles. Protein needs vary per person, but a high-quality protein dosed at 0.4-0.5 g/kg (both pre- and post-exercise) is a simple, general guideline that reflects the current evidence.

Rehydrate with water to help your body deliver nutrients to cells, regulate blood pressure, and body temperature. Typical recommendations are 16-24 oz. for every pound lost during exercise. However, needs vary per person and are dependent on height, weight, gender, intensity, duration, climate, etc.

For example, a person who weighs 150 pounds (2.2 kg/lb = 68 kg) would need approximately 68-82 g of carbohydrates and 27-34 g of protein in their post-workout meal or snack.

When should I eat after my workout? What about the “anabolic window?”

Despite claims that say immediate post-workout nutritional intake is essential to maximize hypertrophic gains, research support for such an “anabolic window” is not definitive. This hypothesis is based largely on training done in a fasted state. If resistance training is done after an overnight fast, it is ideal to provide immediate nutrient intervention to promote muscle protein synthesis, reduce proteolysis (breakdown of protein into amino acids), and switch from a catabolic state into an anabolic one.

Therefore, pre-exercise nutrition can influence the urgency or effectiveness of post-exercise nutrition. For those with the goal of increasing muscle size/strength, aim to have a pre-exercise meal within 1-2 hours before the workout. Depending on the size and composition, this meal can function as both a pre-workout and immediate post-workout meal since the time of digestion/absorption can go well into the recovery period. So having your post-workout meal either immediately or 1-2 hours post-workout is sufficient for maximizing recovery and anabolism.

Best Meals for Recovery

Recover properly by having MightyMeals freshly prepared meals on hand. You can find a variety of meals that meet your goals, as well as bulk lean protein and carbohydrate options to portion out your meals perfectly. To locate the best meals and snacks that fit into your macronutrient range, use MightyMeals macro filter and select the amount of calories, protein, carbs, and fat you need. Remember, needs vary depending on person, training intensity, and desired goals. Consult with a dietitian to discuss recommendations specific to your training program.

Laura Legend is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in the greater Washington D.C. area and one of our newest MightyMeals’ guest contributors.

Learn more about Laura and how she helps her clients fuel their bodies optimally with sustainable nutrition plans, and why MightyMeals is her top choice for a healthy, grab-and-go meal.