Are you confused about what to eat after a workout? Well, I’m here to help. I will tell you one thing up front… the best thing to eat after a workout is not protein.
So often I hear people talking about what to eat after a workout at my local gym. They are also trying to decide between a whey protein smoothie or whole grain cereal.
Get Fit Faster By What to Eat After a Workout
Training is nothing more than breaking down of muscle tissues, athletes (and weekend warriors!). Those of you that optimize recovery and restore muscle tissue the quickest will reap the most benefit from your workouts. This is why it matter what to eat after a workout.
In fact, the faster you recover from a workout the more fit you will be. The faster you recover the faster you will be able to train again and you will be able to push harder. The harder you push, the stronger and more fit you become.
Proper recovery can make a significant impact in both your performance and fitness level. If your muscles recover from a workout quickly it allows other systems to remain in better health.
Faster recovery also means more energy. As a mom, I can’t afford to have my workouts drain my energy levels either. Whether you are a serious athlete or just a busy mom like me it’s equally important to have energy! And you can’t have energy if you don’t optimize post-workout recovery.
Of all the things you can do to boost recovery after a workout is choose better foods. Your choice will make the single biggest impact.
What to Eat After a Workout Can Boost Cellular Regeneration
Whether you are an athlete or not, one of the most important things to consider is recovery after exercise.
A big benefit of a regular exercise program is that it encourages the body to regenerate muscle tissue more rapidly. It can actually keep the body in a constant state of regeneration. However, in order for the muscles and cells to regenerate optimally, they need the right nutrients.
The post-workout recovery diet goal should be to focus on consuming nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. Note: Reducing inflammation plays a key role in how well your body recovers from a workout.
The Best Three Options for What to Eat After a Workout
To speed recovery, your body needs simple carbohydrates and electrolytes to enter the bloodstream—the quicker the better.
Believe it or not, you actually want your post-workout snack to contain very little fat or protein. That’s because both fat and protein will slow the rate at which carbohydrate enters the bloodstream.
Best Post Workout Recovery Foods
The best post workout recovery foods to eat are the ones that meet the following criteria:
- Easy to Digest
- Rich in Antioxidants because antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and neutralize the free radicals generated by exercise
- Rich in Phytonutrients because plant-based phytonutrients help detox the body and speed post workout recovery
- Anti-Inflammatory because exercise temporarily promotes inflammation and the oxidative stress from the workout forces your body to build up antioxidant defenses. Eating antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory foods before and after exercise will reduce inflammation and speed recovery.
- Nutrient Dense means you want to consume relatively high proportion of nutrients to calories
#1: Grab Nature’s Fuel by Choosing Fruits, Nuts and Seeds
Any combination of fruit and nuts will make the perfect post-workout recovery food that meets all of the criteria.
Look for fruits that are lower in fiber or consider dried fruits. After a workout your body needs carbs more than fat or protein. So, you want to eat more fruits than nuts or seeds.
What to Eat After a Workout
What to Eat After a Workout include foods that reduce inflammation, restore glycogen, supply the body with antioxidants.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 1x
- In a medium-sized bowl, place your diced apple first. Then layer the bananas and blueberries.
- Drizzle the nut butter and sprinkle the cinnamon.
- For an extra boost to sore muscle recovery, add the milled flaxseed on top.
More Great Options:
- 1 banana + 1 teaspoon of almond butter
- 1 apple + 1/2 cup “whole” almond milk, (click HERE to read why “whole” almond milk is best)
- 6 dried figs + 1 teaspoon of cashew nut butter
- 1 mango + 1/2 cup hemp milk
- Handful of raisins + 5 Brazil nuts
#2: Easy On-the-Go Options:
These 2 bars are the best we can find that contain the balance of fruit and nuts with no unnecessary ingredients. I like to keep a box of these in the pantry so I can grab one after my workout if I don’t come straight home.
#3: A Post-Workout Nutrition Smoothie
If you love smoothies as much as we do, then adding fruit, nuts/seeds and superfood boosters is probably the very best post-workout recovery foods you could have.
Best Smoothies for Post-Workout Nutrition:
#1: Ditch the protein powder and try our Healthiest Protein Smoothie that has hemp seeds, nut butter and a delicious blend of fruits and leafy greens.
#2: This Chocolate Banana Smoothie is perfect for boosting your post-workout healing and recovery.
#3: If you’re a fan of Superfoods (because who isn’t?), then try out this Superfood Smoothie.
Benefits of Drinking a Post-Workout Smoothie
#1: Your body can absorb the nutrients in a smoothie more easily because blending helps break down hard-to-digest plant cell walls. This is very difficult to do with solid foods, unless you chew each bite until it reaches liquid form.
#2: Smoothies contain liquid that helps with post-workout hydration.
#3: It’s easy to add a handful of dark leafy greens because dark leafy greens are one of the most nutrient-dense foods.
Best Post-Workout Nutrition Recovery Food Brands:
These are a few of my favorite post-workout recovery food brands I recommend and how I use them:
Amazing Grass Green Superfood
I use this as a superfood “booster” powder to add to my water bottle that I drink both during and after my workout. It has a really great berry flavor too.
Camu Powder for a Vitamin C Boost
A true superfood, one teaspoon of camu powder = 1,180 % of your Daily Value for vitamin C! Even if you just add 1/4 of a teaspoon, camu is a great addition to any post workout recovery smoothie. Buy Camu powder here.
Maca Powder is a Stress Fighting Adaptogen
Another superfood, maca is a great source of vitamins, amino acids, plant sterols, minerals and essential fatty acids. Maca Powder has been traditionally used in Peru as a stress-fighting adaptogen and to increase stamina, boost libido and combat fatigue. And, because it has such a mild-neutral flavor, it is easy to work maca powder into just about any smoothie recipe as a nutritional “booster”. I talk more about maca in this blog post.
Pure Organics is a Nutrient-Dense Fruit and Nut Bar
Made with just 4 to 8 ingredients, Pure Organics bars are nutrient-dense fruit and nut bars that are perfect for on the go. Easy to pop into your workout bag.
Goji Powder is loaded with Vitamin A
One serving of goji powder delivers 140% of your Daily Value for vitamin A. Along with over 20 vitamins and minerals and a hefty dose of antioxidants. Mildly sweet, goji powder blends well into just about any smoothie recipe.
Nutrient-Dense Foods Boost Energy & Cellular Regeneration
The best workout recovery foods is to focus on the ones that have the most nutrition with the least calories.
I am not saying you should be on a low-calorie diet and I definitely do not believe in counting calories.
What NOT to Eat After a Workout
I can’t talk about the best workout recovery foods to eat without also talking about protein….
How much protein do you need in a day? Probably a lot less than you think!
Most experts say we need 1-2 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. The Institute of Medicine recommends we take in 0.8 gram of protein for every kilogram that we weigh.
For example, a 120-pound woman would only need to consume about 44 grams of protein a day. This isn’t a whole lot.
If you exercise of course you need more protein. However, you don’t need to massively increase the ratio of protein in your diet. Instead, you simply need to increase your overall calorie/ energy intake. Which will indirectly boost your protein intake assuming you are eating “whole” foods. Keep in mind, ALL unrefined “whole” plant foods have protein.
Avoid Processed Protein Powders
You want to steer clear of any protein powders with protein isolates (such as whey and soy protein isolate powders). Protein isolates are highly processed ingredients and are made by removing the carbohydrate and fat from a food.
The isolation process involves high temperatures and usually chemicals. The resulting protein will also have a significantly lower pH than it did before processing and will therefore be acid-forming rather than alkalanizing (Note: eating a diet rich in acid-forming foods adversely affects health at a cellular level.)
Research shows that consuming a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein after exercise results in higher glycogen stores. Consuming more protein, however, actually slows rehydration and glycogen replenishment. So the 4:1 ratio seems ideal for endurance athletes who train daily.
This doesn’t mean you should be guzzling Gateorade though! Gatorade does have both simple carbohydrates and electrolytes, and it both fat-free and protein-free, but it also has zero nutrition. Instead, you want to choose foods that deliver simple carbohydrates, electrolytes AND nutrients.
So, What to Eat After Your Workout?
Now you have the full and complete answer! Hopefully this blog post will give you plenty of ideas for how to optimize your post-workout recovery nutrition. If you have any favorite workout recovery foods, smoothie recipes or tips please leave a comment below and tell us all about it!
Getting enough calories / energy is of course an essential component of optimizing post workout recovery, however you won’t reap the same cellular regeneration benefits if you choose to eat a 200 calorie Snickers bar instead of 200 calories of a superfood green smoothie.