What Foods Should You Eat After Exercise? Post-Workout Snacks

What are the foods to be eaten after exercise?

A post-workout meal containing protein and carbohydrates can help replenish your body’s glycogen stores and aid in muscle recovery.

Many people tend to overlook the necessity of a post-exercise snack.

A good post-workout meal contains both protein and carbohydrates. The carbs give you energy while protein helps recover and build muscle.

Some of the foods that you can eat after exercise include:

  • A peanut butter sandwich
  • Chocolate milkshake (prepared with low-fat milk)
  • Whole-grain crackers with cheese
  • Yogurt with nuts and seeds
  • Any fruit (such as apple, kiwi, or banana)
  • A protein shake or smoothie
  • Lean meat and vegetable sandwich or wrap in a whole-grain bread
  • Protein bar
  • Overnight oats or oatmeal in low-fat milk with some nuts and resins
  • Scrambled or boiled eggs on a whole-grain toast
  • Salmon with baked sweet potato
  • Stir-fried or grilled chicken and vegetables with brown rice
  • Quinoa with stir-fried veggies and tofu or turkey

Ensure you drink sufficient water before, during, and after a workout. Avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages and processed foods.

Why should you eat after exercise?

During a workout, your body utilizes its fuel reserve (glycogen), and the extent to which your energy reserves are exhausted largely depends on the intensity and duration of the workout. A post-exercise meal helps replenish the glycogen stores and aids muscle recovery.

You are less likely to feel drained or have muscle cramps and aches if you eat a proper snack or meal after a workout. This will give you the energy and stamina to continue with your routine activities after your workout. The post-exercise meal prevents muscle loss and inflammation.

When should you eat after exercise?

Your body is ready to refuel and repair itself after a workout. It is advisable to have a post-workout meal or snack within 30 minutes to an hour of finishing your workout. If you do not have time to have a proper post-workout meal, even having a small snack, such as yogurt or smoothie, will help with post-workout recovery. Starving yourself after exercise may cause the breakdown of muscle protein and loss of muscle mass.

What foods should you avoid after exercise?

To reap maximum benefits from your workout, avoid the following foods:

  1. Sugary or fatty foods
  2. Sodas
  3. Spicy foods
  4. Foods with excessive salts
  5. Refined or processed foods
  6. Alcohol

Several post-workout foods and drinks are available in the market; however, many do not indicate the complete list of ingredients.

  • Some are touted as ergogenic aids, which means they are claimed to enhance athletic performance. There is limited scientific evidence to support most such supplements.
  • Many of these supplements may contain hormones, steroids, or excessive salt that can harm your health. Such supplements may be particularly harmful to people younger than 18 years.
  • Hence, if you wish to consider taking any supplement to enhance athletic performance or post-workout recovery, you must discuss it with your doctor first.

Should you eat before or after a workout?

It is advisable to eat both before and after the workout. What and how much to eat depends upon your fitness goals, type of workout (intensity and duration), and your overall fitness.

  • If you are going to do a moderate workout lasting no more than 30 to 40 minutes, you may skip an elaborate pre-workout meal.
  • For workouts that are higher in intensity or longer in duration (one hour or more), it is advisable not to skip the pre-workout meal.

You can have a pre-workout snack or meal about one to three hours before a workout and a post-workout snack within an hour of finishing your workout. Avoid foods that make you feel gassy or bloated.


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Medically Reviewed on 4/27/2022


Image Source: iStock Image

Mayo Clinic. Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045506

Cleveland Clinic. Should You Eat Before or After a Workout? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-to-eat-before-and-after-a-workout/

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