Post-Workout Nutrition: Top Foods to Eat & Avoid


The Role of Food in Muscle Building and Exercise Recovery

Though it’s common knowledge that
exercise builds muscle, many are less aware of the crucial part food plays in this process. Not only does food fuel your workout by providing energy, but it also supplies
important nutrients to the organs and systems most affected by exercise.

Replenishing Nutrients After Workouts

Our bodies burn through lots of energy-providing nutrients during exercise, necessitating their replenishment afterward.
The American Heart Association notes that exercises, particularly, burn through carbohydrates, which are the main fuel for your muscles.

Eating for Injury Prevention and Muscle Recovery

Aside from replenishing nutrients, food also aids in preventing injuries and repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue damaged during workouts. As Dr. Matthew Anastasi, a consultant within the division of sports medicine department of orthopedics at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, explains, failing to eat the right foods or replace fluids post-exercise could lead to an energy deficit and difficulties in recovery.

What to eat after a workout:

Caroline Susie, a registered dietician and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that after a workout, your dietary objectives should be to replace lost nutrients and eat foods that aid in
muscle recovery. This includes carbohydrates to refuel lost energy and “replenish lost
glycogen stores“.

Sourcing Healthy Carbohydrates and Hydrating Post Workout

Great sources of
healthy carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils,
brown rice, and oats. It’s also crucial to
replenish liquids lost through sweat during exercise. You can do this by drinking plenty of water or by blending water with 100% fruit juice for additional carb replenishment.

Importance of Protein in Muscle Recovery

Alongside carbohydrates, healthy sources of
protein are also important after exercise. Barbara Olendzki, associate professor of population and quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School, recommends whole fruit and protein for their antioxidant properties that aid in muscle repair.

What Not to Eat After a Workout

While eating the right foods post-workout is important, it’s equally crucial to avoid the wrong ones. Olendzki advises against
sugary foods and drinks, as well as foods high in saturated fats or hydrogenated oils. Overly processed items and nutrient-empty fare like junk food should also be avoided.

Should I Eat Immediately After a Workout?

Knowing when to eat post-workout can be as useful as knowing what to eat. Olendzki recommends waiting for about 30 minutes after a workout to eat your meal to avoid
cramps and malabsorption. However, it’s also necessary not to wait too long after a workout to ensure you gain the benefits of replacing glycogen stores and rebuilding muscle tissue. The
Mayo Clinic suggests eating within 2 hours after exercise.

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