Post Workout Nutrition: What To Eat After A Workout

post workout nutrition
Learn how to optimize recovery

After a tough workout, it’s important to refuel your body with the right nutrients to promote recovery and to maximize your results.

Today I’ll be discussing:

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After a tough workout…let’s talk about what to do and why

The Science Behind Post Workout Nutrition

Post workout nutrition plays a crucial role in maximizing your muscle growth and helping you start the regeneration process.

When you train you are putting stress on the body.

Strength training is breaking down your muscle tissue aka damaging your muscles and with proper nutrition and recovery your body is trained to super-compensate and rebuild those muscles to come back stronger.

Consuming the right nutrients after your workout can also help replenish glycogen storage, which we talked a lot about in our pre workout nutrition.

But also reduce muscle soreness (other strategies as well we will talk about) and support muscle growth.

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to:

  • lose weight
  • build muscle
  • improve your athletic performance paying attention to your post workout nutrition is essential for optimal results.

“You are only as good as you can recover.”

Me, Kevin Andres
after workout what to eat
Want to improve your strength? Let’s talk about timing

Timing & Strategy When To Eat After Your Workout

When you workout you not only break down muscle tissue but your muscles also use gylcogen, especially at high intensity efforts.

Which means your muscles are depleted of glycogen.

What’s that mean?

When it comes to your post workout nutrition, some argue to replenish nutrients within 30 minutes to an hour.

But what we are suggesting…is yeah, get your nutrients in because it won’t hurt you that’s for sure.

Research also shows that replenishing carbohydrates sooner is more superior than replenishing protein. To clarify – not suggesting you don’t need protein, rather the importance of replenishing your glycogen (carbs) after your workout.

Especially after high intensity workouts you need to take this more serious.

You may have heard of an “anabolic window, this essentially is where your body is primed to absorb nutrients and replenish glycogen.

Your muscles are want to begin to regeneration process as soon as possible for muscle repair and growth.

So the optimal carb to protein ratio is key:

  • 2:1 carbs to protein (low intensity)
  • 3:1 carbs to protein (moderate to high intensity)
  • 4:1 carbs to protein (high intensity to endurance athletes)

Doing this will help your body to decrease muscle breakdown, improve the super compensation process faster (rebuilding muscle tissue), and enhance your recovery.

crossfit workouts
To bounce back from your workout as soon as possible, you want the right nutrients.

Key Nutrients For Effective Recovery:

Each macronutrient (protein, carbs and fat) plays a crucial role in your body’s recovery process.

That’s why you want to have the right breakdown. We believe the better you understand this process the more likely you are to follow through with prioritizing these choices.

Protein – The Role Of Protein In Recovery

Protein, as you know plays a role in rebuilding muscle tissue to help you get stronger.

When you strength train, your muscles undergo microscopic damage, and protein is needed to rebuild your muscles.

Studies suggest to consume 20-40 grams of protein every few hours as that’s likely the most your body can absorb anyway.

post workout nutrition
Here are some suggested protein intakes

Carbs – Fueling Your Muscles

In addition to protein, carbs are important in your post workout nutrition.

Carbohydrates is your body’s primary source of energy with high intensity workouts (crossfit, hiit training, etc) and after your workout you want to replenish your carbohydrates.

I’ve talked about this in the past but to become more “fat adapted” where you use more fat as fuel:

Because what your body uses as fuel depends on the intensity.

at home workout
The goal is to be able to have more power output with a lower heart rate

To optimize recovery you want to replenish your glycogen levels after your workout.

Recommended carb/protein ratio after workout:

2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 for endurance athletes. This would look like:

  • 50 grams of carbs to 25 grams of protein (lower intensity workouts)
  • 75 grams of carbs to 25 grams of protein (moderate – to high intensity workouts)
  • 100 grams of carbs to 25 grams of protein (high intensity – to endurance workouts)
swim workouts
For you endurance athletes out there, prioritize carbohydrates more.

That’s a photo of me from back in my triathlon days in 2008. It’s one of my favorite pictures.

It’s probably 4:30 in the morning and my sister is with me ready to cheer me on for the event.

Fat – Should You Avoid After Your Workout?

I wish I had the magic answer for this but truthfully there just isn’t enough research on this.

Some studies show that it can slow the digestion and messes with your ability to absorb nutrients.

For me personally, I don’t prioritize fat after a workout. My main focus in on carbohydrates and secondly protein.

protein chart
Here is a chart pulled from my NASM textbook on complete protein sources

Hydration – Replenishing Electrolytes

Hydration is often overlooked pre, during and post workout and if you are aren’t taking your hydration seriously you are missing out on serious benefits.

When you workout you lose fluids through sweat.

And what’s in those fluids?

  • electrolytes
  • sodium
  • potassium and magnesium

Replenishing these are essential for optimal performance and muscle function. Drinking coconut water is a great way to do this. There is also several other electrolyte drinks that you can supplement.

Find what that has the least fluff and only ingredients that you need.

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As you dive into our blog post on post-workout nutrition, you’re already one step closer to your goals.

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Post Workout Meal Ideas

You have a better understanding of why each macronutrient is important…right?

Now let me give you some real life examples:

  1. Grilled salmon, quinoa and steamed vegatbles
  2. Grilled chicken, vegetables and brown rice
  3. Greek yogurt and berries (knowing you will have a larger meal soon)
  4. Lentil and vegetable soup with Ezekiel bread
  5. Smoothie with bananas, strawberries, spinach, almond milk
post workout nutrition
After your workout get your body to be in a parasympathetic (restful state) as soon as possible

Carbs – Which To Eat After Your Workout

After a workout you have learned it’s important to replenish your glycogen storage to help promote a quick recovery. Here are some healthy carbohydrates to consider.

Fruits are rich in natural sugars and vitamins, making them a great choice for a post carb.

    • Banannas – high in potassium and easily digestible
    • Berries – (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) great for antioxidants and fiber
    • Oranges – great source of hydration and vitamin c

    Sweet Potatoes a nutrient dense carbohydrate source that’s great for vitamins, minerals and fiber.

    Quinoa a hidden gem that’s a complete protein and great for recovery.

    Oats are high in fiber and a great source of carbs, I personally throw them in my smoothies.

    deadlift correct form

    Brown Rice a solid complex carbohydrate that will help you easily hit your 2,3 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio.

    Whole Grain Bread or Pasta you can pair this easily with some protein and vegetables for a well rounded meal.

    Legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans are easy to throw into a salad and offer a good bit of carbs, protein and fiber.

    Dried Fruits – raisins, dates, and apricots is another easily digestible carb.

    Honey a natural sweetener that is a simple carbohydrate for quick energy.

    Rice Cakes anytime I talk about rice cake I can’t help but think of this time a friend of mine at 70 rice cakes before a competition. Yes, 70…this was not recommended by me haha.

    Potatoes both white and sweet potatoes are valuable options

    post workout nutrition
    Researching best post workout protocols? We got ya

    Protein Options To Consider After Your Workout

    Both protein and carbohydrates play an important role in post workout nutrition and play specific roles in supporting recovery, muscle growth and overall health.

    Two things we have talked about today:

    1. When you eat protein it stimulates the release of insulin, which helps to transport amino acids into your muscle cells aka protein synthesis.
    2. Satiety – if you struggle at night and feel like you want to eat everything in sight it’s likely because you haven’t had enough protein. Protein makes you feel full and helps you to control you appetite for later in the evening.
    kettlebell swing
    Protein options 👇🏻

    Here are some healthy protein options:

    1. Chicken breast – lean, high in protein and easy to throw into a variety of meals.
    2. Turkey
    3. Salmon – which also has a ton of omega 3 fatty acids
    4. Tofu – believe it or not I was vegan for quite some time to experiment with how my body would respond depending on a different source of protein
    5. Greek yogurt – contains more protein that regular yogurt and also has a probiotics which are great for your gut health.
    6. Cottage cheese – not my favorite but it’s great source of protein, in particular casein.
    7. Eggs – I find this to be one of the easiest things to eat for an easy complete protein
    8. Lean beef – not only do you get protein but also beef is high in iron and zinc. I personally prefer Bison beef.
    9. Quinoa – it’s a great source of both carbs and protein and I love to put quinoa in as many meals as I can.
    10. Protein powders – there are a ton of great protein powders in both whey and vegan options. If you go the vegan route be sure to get the ones that are derived from sources like pea, rice and or hemp protein.
    cold plunge
    Cold water therapy

    Beyond Nutrition: Other Recovery Practices

    The number one thing to optimize your recovery is…


    It really is.

    Outside of sleep we often talk about stress management. Your body doesn’t know the difference between:

    • physical stress
    • emotional stress
    • and mental stress

    It’s all stress. So if you are strung out all day and then you go into your workout and try to do a full send, you are doing in most cases more harm than good.

    Listen to your body.

    When you feel good, push it.

    When you feel like crap, just get started and see what happens. But it’s okay to pull back your percentages for the day and or slow day your pace.

    Lastly there are a few active recovery techniques that I’m a fan of:

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    You walk away today realizing how much more carbohydrates you should be consuming for optimal performance I'm sure.

    Most athletes don't realize how much they truly need.

    2:1 for moderate intensity, 3:1 for Crossfit workouts and 4:1 carb to protein ratio for endurance athletes.

    We talked about the timing of your post workout meal, how important hydration is and even gave you some meal options.

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    What should I eat after a workout?

    You should have a meal or snack containing both carbs and protein within 1-2 hours of training to optimize recovery

    What's the ideal protein to carb ratio for post workout?

    There is no one size fits all because this depends on many things. In most cases, intensity. A general guideline is a 2:1 carb to protein ratio (50 carbs/25 protein) for low intensity. A 3:1 or 4:1 for high intensity/endurance athletes. Carbohydrates are essential to promote glycogen replenishment and muscle repair.

    Should I avoid fats after a workout?

    Fats do slow digestion, small amounts of healthy fat won't negatively impact recovery. Have your primary focus be on carbohydrates and protein and include fats in your meals to follow after.

    What if I'm not hungry after my workout?

    This isn't uncommon, in fact many experience a reduce in appetite after intense exercise. This of course depends on the timing of when you workout, but if this question fits you prioritize a smaller, nutrient dense snack if a meal or shake isn't appealing.

    Should I have a post workout meal if my goal is weight loss?

    100%. Post workout nutrition is essential for everyone, regardless of weight loss goals. Choosing nutrient dense options can support your recovery but also keep you satiated so you don't overeat at night.

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