What should I eat after a workout?

After a workout you should eat protein and carbs to get the most from your exercise, especially if it includes strength training.  In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, scientists found that carb gels and nutrition bars help maintain and restore blood sugar levels, aiding exercise recovery and countering unfavorable changes to the immune system. According to the study carb-heavy foods consumed during or right after exercise (think of a one-hour postworkout window) aided the body’s recovery by cutting "immune disturbances." The researchers concluded that among various nutritional strategies to counteract immune depression during exercise recovery, carbohydrates have proven the most effective.
Michael Bergeron, PhD
Sports Medicine
After exercise, your body’s primary dietary needs are water, carbohydrate, electrolytes (primarily sodium and chloride -- salt) and protein for complete rehydration and muscle recovery. Sufficiently replenishing water, electrolytes and other nutrients is crucial for recovery from exercise, as well as overall health. With a little planning, you can make sure you are drinking enough fluid to optimize recovery. Measure your weight before exercise and then again afterward (without wearing your sweaty clothes). This will let you know how much more fluid you lost during exercise than what you consumed.
For every one pound lost through sweating that was not replaced during training or competition, drink 16-20 fluid ounces over the next several hours or more to make up for the remaining fluid deficit. Eating a salty snack or meal is also beneficial because it will help you replace some of the sodium lost through sweating and will enhance fluid retention and distribution throughout your body -- examples of appropriate foods include soup, vegetable juice or pretzels.
Samantha Heller, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

It's best to eat foods containing a combo of protein and carbs after you exercise. Learn more about which foods you should ingest after you work out by watching this video featuring registered dietitian Samantha Heller.

Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Immediately after a workout, be sure to drink a cup of water to rehydrate your body to replace the water lost. A combination of 3 essential food groups after a workout include: lean protein, complex carbohydrates and some healthy fats in the form of a light meal or snack within two hours after your workout. This will help to restore your glycogen which is your energy storage. Proteins provide amino acids that rebuild muscle tissue which can be damaged during intense workouts such as strength training. Some great choices include a lean chicken sandwich on whole grain bread, an egg or piece of cheese with crackers or a salad with some added animal or vegetarian protein and grains.

Have you noticed that you often crave sweets or starchy foods after a good workout? That's because your body needs to replenish the glycogen it used. It's important to refuel after a workout, but it's also important to choose the right food.

For about 2 hours after you exercise, your body is primed for refueling and can replenish its glycogen supplies more quickly than normal, but only if you feed it. So what's the best apres-activity treat for your sore muscles? Carbs are good, but a combination of carbohydrates and lean protein is even better for your body's recovery. Together, they help replenish your glycogen stores, and the protein provides important amino acids that work to repair damaged muscle tissue.

Continue Learning about Healthy Eating For Athletes

Healthy Eating For Athletes

Healthy Eating For Athletes

Your body needs adequate fuel for athletics. Eat a healthy meal or snack loaded with proteins and carbohydrates. Consume carbohydrates like bread, pasta, fruit, cereal and vegetables so you have quick energy during exercise. And, ...

the protein (grilled chicken, fish) you eat will help your muscles recover and grow, and also keep the blood cells healthy to deliver oxygen and nutrients. By drinking 16 ounces of water a few hours before exercise will help you stay hydrated. Its OK to use sports drinks if you perspire heavily, if the temperature and humidity is high, if you’re playing a team sport or if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes. They provide necessary carbohydrates and sodium.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.