What Should I Eat After a Workout?

If you’re anything like me, eating good food is something that can be done at almost any hour. And exercising serves as the perfect excuse to pig out on your favorite foods later … right? I certainly thought so when I was in college. One wintry afternoon during my freshman year, a friend and I went to the gym, then promptly went back to her apartment and baked/ate a bunch of cupcakes.

As it turns out, sweets aren’t exactly the best option for post-workout eating (who knew?!). Instead, I consulted a few experts to get the skinny on what to eat after you hit the gym.

What should I eat after a workout?

“It is so critical to get the proper nutrition after a workout to allow the muscles in the body to repair itself for the next workout session,” Erin Akey, an FNC and KNS certified nutritionist, said.

Within the first hour of finishing your exercise, it’s key to get some protein, healthy fats, fiber and carbohydrates in your body, she noted. Akey listed a few options:

  • Low-sugar protein shakes. Akey specifically recommended a brand called Quest. Before picking a brand, check out the label to check how much protein it actually contains. “A good ratio is a minimum of 20 to 30 grams of protein, at least 5 grams of fat, 5 grams or less of carbohydrate and 150 to 200 calories,” she said.
  • Nuts with cheese or fruit. Almonds, macadamias and walnuts all work.
  • Keto fat bombs. These snacks are high in fat and low in carbs.
  • A banana with peanut butter

Tori Schmitt, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of YES! Nutrition, voiced similar thoughts. Carbohydrates, she said, help refuel muscles after workouts. Protein is key because it helps with muscle rebuilding and repair.

Schmitt shared the following food ideas:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries
  • 2 hard boiled eggs with veggies and hummus
  • 3 ounces of grilled salmon with veggies and ½ a baked potato
  • 1 protein-packed bar (such as a Perfect Bar)
  • 1 whole grain or almond flour tortilla spread with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds

She also touched on one last crucial aspect of post-workout recovery: H2O. “[I]t’s important to rehydrate with adequate fluids to replenish what may have been lost through sweat (which helps cool you down during that tough workout!),” Schmitt said.

Pete Rufo, a performance coach at Beast Training Academy in New Lenox, Illinois, also highlighted the importance of hydration. “Any type of exercise will leave you with a fluid deficit,” he said. “To recover from this, you should aim to consume 125 to 150 percent of the estimated fluid lost over a four- to six-hour period.”

In order to replace electrolytes lost through sweating, Rufo suggested sipping on a sports drink, which replace approximately half a liter of sweat lost during workouts, he said.

As for food, he outlined a few choices related to protein and muscle building:

  • A protein shake (20 to 30 grams of protein)
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Black beans
  • Beef

When you wrap up your next workout and are craving a bite to eat, resist the cupcakes. There are much healthier (and just as yummy) options out there that will help your body recover after a workout.

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About Erin Dietsche

Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn’t until her parents “forced” her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she’s become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. In recent years, Erin has embraced other forms of fitness like lifting weights. When she’s not working out, she enjoys anything theatre-related, writing plays, reading, listening to rap music, and playing the piano.