When I’m enjoying a post-workout glow, the last thing on my mind is what I’m eating. It’s hard for my brain to get past the “Need food now!” stage, especially if I’ve spent time during burpee sets or Savasana daydreaming of fluffy scrambled eggs or overnight oats for breakfast.
We’ve been taught that diet and exercise are separate for so long. (Anybody else grow up thinking goldfish and juice boxes were the best post-soccer game snack?) The reality is that everything in your body is interconnected, and to get the most out of a workout, you need to pay attention to how you’re fueling it, including after a workout (not just before).
“Physical movement requires energy,” says Maya Feller, MS, RD, and CDN at Maya Feller Nutrition in Brooklyn. “Post-workout is the ideal time to replenish lost stores.”
A rule of thumb? Eat within 60 minutes or so of your workout (or sooner if you’re doing heavier cardio or HIIT classes). Here’s what you should be eating after your workouts:
Post-Workout Requires Balanced Whole Foods
The best post-workout foods have a blend of different nutrients so you can quickly and easily fuel up. The foods you choose depend largely on your goals, whether that’s recovering more quickly, increasing muscle growth, or focusing on endurance.
“After a hard workout, you want to eat a mix of protein and carbohydrates,” says Boston-based nutritionist and registered dietitian Sarah Gold. “The protein is important for repairing the small (completely normal) muscle tears that occur during exercise and carbohydrates that help replenish used up stores.”
Gold suggests focusing on balanced whole-food snacks and meals, rather than turning to protein shakes or supplements. “A big myth I see is that you only need protein,” she says. “ I always recommend whole foods over powders and supplements, since whole foods offer a host of other health benefits and tend to be more satisfying.”
Meet the Expert
- Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition is a registered dietitian nutritionist who is a nationally recognized nutrition expert. Maya shares her approachable, real food based solutions to millions of people through regular speaking engagements, writing in local and national publications, via her social media account on Instagram, @mayafellerRD, and as a national nutrition expert on Good Morning America.
- Sarah Gold is a registered dietitian, nutrition communication expert, food blogger, and owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition, a virtual private practice and consulting business in the suburbs of Boston. Sarah is also a spin instructor, avid runner and triathlete.
Recover with Workout-Specific Meals
“Short duration, lower-intensity workouts may not require significant nutrition modification while longer duration, higher-intensity, and more strenuous workouts will,” says Feller. “It is important to remember that all activities, regardless of their intensity,…