Why is it important to eat the right foods after a workout and does it depend on the type of workout?
Fueling properly after a workout is key to maximizing recovery. A combination of carbohydrates and protein is key – regardless of the type of workout. The amount of food consumed post-workout will depend on the type, duration, and intensity of the workout. Longer, more intense bouts of exercise will warrant a larger meal than shorter, less intense exercise sessions. Consuming enough carbohydrates and protein is key to replenishing the muscles so that you can return to your next training session feeling energized.
When is the best time to eat after a workout and why?
Try to eat as soon as practical after a workout – within 30 minutes to 1 hour is ideal. This timing is key because muscle tissue is most sensitive to nutrient intake during this window. If it will be more than an hour until your next meal after a workout, have something small to bridge the gap. A protein shake/smoothie or bar are great options to have right away.
What foods are best to eat after a workout when you’re trying losing weight?
It is always a good idea to seek the guidance of a nutrition professional for specific recommendations based on your personal goals and lifestyle. If weight loss is the goal, it will be important to make sure that the post-workout meal or snack aligns with the calorie target for the day. It is crucial to establish a calorie deficit when losing weight. Foods like low-fat Greek yogurt with berries, a simple protein shake with 2% cows milk or the unsweetened plant-based milk of your choice, or a turkey sandwich on wheat bread could all be fine choices.
What about when you’re trying to gain muscle?
For muscle gain, a calorie surplus is necessary. Achieving a calorie surplus means consuming more calories (with an emphasis on protein) than are burned. In this case a large snack or meal after a strength training workout is key. This could be a full meal containing protein (chicken breast, ground turkey, lean steak), carbohydrates (brown rice, baked sweet potato, whole grain pasta), healthy fat (avocado, olive oil, nuts), and vegetables.
What about when you’re trying to just get toned (meaning not get too bulky)?
Getting “toned” is tricky because it does require building muscle and trimming fat – when someone is “toned” you can see their muscle definition*. Focusing on protein and complex carbohydrate consumption without going overboard on calories should be the primary goal.
*As an aside, the word “toned” is rather a frustrating one in the fitness space (at least for me it is). Like I mentioned above, appearing toned requires visible muscle definition. Achieving this requires strength training and fueling appropriately to build muscle. Also, it is mainly women who have the goal of achieving a toned look, but at the same time may be afraid to do the type of workout required to achieve those results. My hope is that the conversation around women in fitness can shift from strictly aesthetics and looking a certain way, to overall strength and confidence in their body.