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What to Eat After a Workout: Find the Best Post-Workout Meal for You
Unsure about what’s good to eat after a workout? We’ve got you covered. Check out our guide on what to eat after a workout to build muscle, lose weight, or just feel healthy and well-nourished. Your friends at Jack City Fitness are experts…and we’re here to share our knowledge!
Do Post-Workout Food Choices Matter?
Your workout doesn’t end when you wipe down your last piece of equipment and hit the showers. In the hours following your workout session, your body needs to recover—otherwise, the hard work that you logged at the gym might not be as effective!
Whether you are hoping to optimize your fitness routine to gain muscle, lose weight, increase endurance, or hone your sporting performance, what you feed your body after your daily workout ends matters. Food, after all, is a form of fuel for your body—making wise choices about what you feed yourself will enhance both your daily life and your athletic and physical skills.
Your ideal post-workout meal or snack will depend on your goals and routine To help you figure out the best post-workout meal for muscle gain or weight loss, we’ve compiled a list of some of our all-time favorites for any occasion.
Your muscles store a type of glucose called glycogen, which acts as a fuel for intense physical activity (like a workout). When you exercise, your muscles do a lot of work. Whether you’re bench-pressing, running, playing a competitive sport, or taking a bikram yoga class, your muscles are doing a lot of heavy lifting. When that happens, your muscles rely on the glycogen they’ve been storing—and those reserves aren’t just going to magically replenish themselves.
That’s why it’s vital to get into the habit of eating for muscle recovery when you leave the gym. If you’re wondering what to eat after a cardio workout, most professionals recommend that you consume a combination of protein and carbohydrates. That combination, by the way, is also solid after a lifting session or a long run. It is also recommended that you eat something within a half-hour of finishing your workout.
What to Eat After a Workout to Gain Muscle
Though there is no one “best” post-workout meal for muscle gain, we certainly have a few favorites. To keep your muscles strong and to avoid post-workout breakdown, we recommend:
- Baked Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are such a perfect food—they are packed with flavor, are super-filling, and can be cooked a million ways. They’re also a great source of carbohydrates—crucial for replenishing your depleted glycogen! Though you can enjoy sweet potatoes anywhere from an omelette to a curry, we never say no to a basic baked sweet spud. Top it with dairy-based protein like cottage cheese, or some omega-3 fatty acid rich tuna to create a filling and muscle-friendly meal. Yum!
- Quinoa Salad with Smoked Salmon
Quinoa is a fantastic source of glycogen-replenishing carbohydrates, whIle smoked salmon provides some omega-3 fatty acid action to help avoid soreness after your gym session. Plus, it’s delicious. Add your favorite vegetables, a handful of nuts for some good fat, and a zippy squeeze of lemon juice, and you’re all set.
What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight
If you’re hitting the gym hoping to lose weight or body fat, choosing a post-workout meal can feel tricky. After all, years of diet culture via magazines and trending slimming fads has left many people confused over which foods are best for actual healthy weight loss.
The truth is that there isn’t just one best post-workout food for weight loss—and some food groups have gotten a pretty bad rap when it comes to dieting. Carbohydrates, for example, have been (unfairly) maligned as being unhealthy and an instant recipe for weight gain. In reality, if you’re putting your body through an intensive workout, carbohydrates are crucial for muscle recovery—which you’ll need in order to continue working out and hitting your fitness and weight goals.
Since we’re destroying weight-loss myths and misconceptions, here’s a critical piece of information that we’re passionate about: Restricting foods after a workout is a terrible idea. Skipping a meal when you leave the gym can be both dangerous and counterproductive. It will make it more difficult for your muscles to recover, leaving you exhausted and unable to perform at your best levels. It will also cause you to feel uncomfortably hungry later on, which often leads to fast and easy food choices that do contribute to weight gain, like processed instant meals or fast food.
Hoping for some inspiration on post-workout bites that encourage your weight loss journey? Try one or more of these options:
- Protein Shakes
There’s a reason athletes love protein shakes: they’re designed to be an easy and effective choice after a workout. Protein shakes, which can be whipped up from your favorite ingredients or a pre-packed powder, are a fantastic way to give your body all the fuel it needs to recover from a workout without any fuss. Those looking to lose weight also swear by protein shakes because it lets them consume a large amount of protein without increasing their caloric intake. Bonus: they’re refreshing and delicious after a sweaty gym session!
- Porridge with Toppings
As we said earlier, carbs are not your enemy! However, not all carbohydrate products are created equal. For post-workout eating, you’ll want to stick with more nutritious items. Oats are perfect for this; they’re full of fiber and are an excellent source of carbohydrates. You can also flavor them to your liking by adding peanut butter, Greek yogurt…whatever floats your boat. Some of our partners even like to make a savory version with veggies, ricotta cheese, and roasted turkey!
What to Eat After a Workout at Night
You’ve probably heard it a million times: “Eating at night isn’t healthy!”
But lots of us prefer to hit the gym later, and we know that skipping meals after a workout is simply not an option. What’s an athlete to do?
We recommend going for something easily digestible and relatively simple to prepare—after all, who wants to be doing dishes at midnight? Not us. Instead, we tend to choose:
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs pack a serious protein punch, and they’re easy to make and consume. You can make them when you’re free and store them in the fridge for a post-gym bite.
- Protein Bars
Protein bars are an easy and quick way to give your muscles the nourishment they need after a workout. You can even keep them in your car for your drive home, so you can shower and climb into bed when you get home.
What NOT to Eat After a Workout
The number one thing you should avoid eating after a workout? Nothing.
As we said before, skipping food after a workout is a flat-out bad idea and shouldn’t happen, ever. That being said, there are a few food items that we suggest saving for another time, like:
- Hard-to-Digest Items
Your body will thrive when you feed it easily digestible food after a workout. Anything else can cause discomfort and make recovery more difficult.
- Sugary Treats
Added sugars can mess with your post-workout recovery, leaving you feeling sluggish. Avoid the blood sugar spike by instead opting for a natural sweet treat, like yogurt or ricotta with bananas and peanut butter.
- Fried or Greasy Foods
Fried foods, delicious as they are, should wait until later. Greasy items like french fries or nuggets will slow down your digestion, and that will make it a longer process for any nutrients to reach your muscles.
Work Out Locally!
Now that you’ve sorted your post-exercise plan, it’s time to optimize your actual workout. If you’re in Boise, come and see us at Jack City Fitness. Here, every partner gets 24/7 gym access as well as the options to work with private coaches, take classes, or even try a custom training program. We’re here to help you succeed. Give us a call today to learn more—we’ll invite you over to our facility for a FREE fitness consultation and tour, no strings attached.
We can’t wait to meet you and see what you’re made of!