Post-Workout Meals: What & When to Eat After A Workout

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July 15, 2022

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If you’ve ever felt tired after a morning workout, had trouble sleeping following an afternoon session or struggled to recover before training the next day - these may be signs you’re not meeting your nutritional needs post-workout.

Why are post-workout meals important?

Post-workout meals ensure we’re replacing the nutrients and energy we have just spent during our workout. This is important to help muscles adapt to the training, regulate our energy levels, and aids in recovery. 

It'salso important to make sure we’re hydrating our body throughout the day, as replenishing the fluid lost during our workouts offers a range of benefits. Drinking enough water can help to improve your sleep, cognitive function and endurance during your workouts. 

What should you eat after a workout? 

Meeting your body’s overall nutritional needs throughout the day, regardless of when you eat your meals, will help you achieve your goals while ensuring you lead a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

However, some studies have suggested that consuming higher levels of particular macronutrients within your post-workout meals can provide certain benefits when it comes to your training. 

According to one study, a post-workout meal containing high levels of quality protein can aid muscle adaptations and repair. This is especially important if you’re a fan of resistance training with weights. One study suggested a post-workout protein intake of 20-25g is optimal.

The American College for Sports Nutrition (ACSM) has suggested that refuelling your body with 1.0-1.5g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight (0.5-0.7g per pound of body weight) after you workout is optimal for glycogen resynthesis – the process where our bodies replenish the glycogen stores we’ve just used while exercising. Making sure we’re eating enough carbohydrates after our workout can also help us control our energy levels throughout the day and improve recovery. 

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When should we eat after a workout?

We now know how important it is to provide our bodies with high-quality protein and carbohydrate-rich meals after a workout; however, the need for an immediate post-workout meal all comes down to timing

Recent research has suggested you can reap the benefits of a post-workout protein intake for up to 24 hours, helping to aid in muscle adaptation and recovery. However, if training fasted it’s highly recommended you consume protein immediately after training.

That means if you're training fasted you might benefit from consuming a post-workout meal that’s quick, easy and packed with protein and carbohydrates. If you've not fasted, there’s no need to consume a post-workout meal straight away, and you can focus on eating high-quality protein and carbohydrates throughout the day.

It’s also important to think about what works best for you and your lifestyle when deciding when to eat after a workout. Maybe you don't find yourself hungry after a workout, or you simply don’t have the time. Eating when it suits you and your routine, in a way that allows you to achieve your daily nutritional needs, is just as important.

Try some of these protein and carbohydrate-rich meal suggestions below to help you get started.

Post-workout meals

Some quick and easy meals if you’re training fasted

Are supplements necessary? 

An article published by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) suggested recreational athletes should adopt a ‘food-first approach’. This involves meeting your nutritional needs through whole foods, not supplements. However, they also state that in cases where eating whole foods is difficult or not practical, supplements could play a role in complementing a healthy, balanced diet.  

With this in mind, having a protein supplement post-workout may be beneficial if you’re training fasted and don’t have time to prepare a meal. Please note, when adding any new supplement to your diet, it’s best to speak to your healthcare professional beforehand to ensure it’s suitable for you. 

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Start planning your post-workout meals 

Post-workout nutrition can have a significant impact on how you feel, your training results and your recovery. 

It’s important to make changes to what you’re eating post-workout based on whether you’re training fasted or non-fasted, your personal goals and time constraints. It’s also important to remain hydrated to help regulate your energy levels and aid recovery. 

If you would like further advice regarding your overall nutrition, or assistance with your post-workout meals, we recommend seeking the advice of a local accredited practising dietitian.

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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