By its very nature, exercise puts stress on your body. This is actually a good type of stress, though, one that will help your muscles to become stronger.
However, it’s important to refuel your body properly after a workout in order to replenish lost nutrients and energy stores.
In particular, your body will typically use up the glycogen stores in your muscles for energy during exercise.
Most experts recommend eating a healthful snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of your workout in order to:
- Replenish glycogen stores
- Repair damaged muscle tissue
- Stimulate the development of new muscle tissues
- Restore lost fluids and electrolytes
- Keep your metabolism going strong
A protein-containing post-workout snack is especially important if you’ve engaged in strength training or high-intensity interval sessions, which damage muscle tissue.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:[i]
“After rigorous physical activity, your body may be lacking energy and nutrients it needs to recover. It is important to replace carbohydrates, sodium and potassium that are lost during exercise. Protein may also be needed to aid in muscle repair.
After a hard workout or taxing sporting event, be sure to have a nutrient-rich snack or meal within 15 minutes to an hour.”
Obviously, there are countless snack ideas that contain both carbs and protein and could be described as a ‘nutrient-rich snack’ … but they’re not all created equal. Following are some of the best foods to eat after exercise to be sure you’re supporting (and not sabotaging) your fitness goals.
Best Foods After Exercise
6. Chocolate Milk?
This one is controversial, as the benefits of milk are debatable. However, if you’re a milk drinker you might be interested to know research has found those who drank chocolate milk after a vigorous workout built more muscles, lost more fat and improved their aerobic power more than those who drank a carbohydrate-only drink. If you choose to go with this one, I recommend using organic raw milk and add your own organic chocolate.[ii][iii]
5. Greek Yogurt with Fruit
Greek yogurt is especially high in protein for muscle repair, while adding in some fresh fruit (like berries or a banana) gives you healthful carbs. Opt for plain Greek yogurt and add in your own fruit at home to avoid added sugars.
4. Banana and Nut Butter
This satisfying snack is quick and tasty, while providing you with just the right amount of carbs, protein and fat. As stated by the American Council on Exercise (ACE):[iv]
“Banana is high in fructose (fruit sugar) and a high-glycemic carbohydrate that the body can quickly convert to energy. When you enjoy it with a small amount (1 tablespoon) of almond butter, you add protein and just a small amount of healthy fat.”
3. A Quick Burrito
Grab a whole wheat pita and stuff it with a small amount of black beans, avocado, salsa and cheese for an optimal mini recovery meal. If you’re watching your carbs, you can also make this in a bowl without the tortilla.
2. Half a Turkey Sandwich
Turkey on whole wheat with veggies (red pepper, tomato, spinach) and hummus (if you’re a fan) gives you an energy-boosting combination of protein and carbs.
1. Whey Protein Smoothie
Whey protein is an easily digestible, rapidly absorbed protein. Research shows that consuming whey protein within two hours of a workout appears to “maximally stimulate MPS [muscle protein synthesis]”.[v] Plus, it’s easy to add whey protein to a smoothie with berries, water/milk and a couple of handfuls of spinach. You can also add in coconut water for electrolytes. Many people don’t have much of an appetite following a hard workout, so consuming your snack in liquid form is ideal if this applies to you.
Written By: Updated: March 17,2014
6 thoughts on “The 6 Best Foods to Eat After Exercising”
Cows milk, especially that containing A1 Beta Casein can be deadly to some people but Cocoa powder is especially good. I suggest almond or rice milk sweetened with honey. Also, stay away from wheat, use corn tortillas.
Corn is not good. While it may not trigger gluten intolerance, it is often contaminated with a fungus/mold which is carcinogenic. Much corn is also GM. So avoid corn too!!!
I see so many times, as your above, #5 Greek Yogurt+ fruit, are a healthy choice. When the research says that combining dairy products and fruit (especially blueberries) render the polyphenols (antioxidants), ineffective. Seems like the Casein in dairy products is the culprit. Then why do we aways see pictured in adds for healthy consumption this combination? All Health Mags & stores have this duo like it’s the perfect answer to your health needs. Seems facts tell another story and if one wants the benefits the polyphenols it would behoove them to consume, in this case, G Yogurt & Blueberries @ different times. This means no milk in Green Tea Powder also.
I honestly do not know what and who to believe anymore. I have just finished reading an article about how detrimental to our health/metabolism wheat and all its products can be, as well as pasteurised and homogenised milk and here this article touts these products as the best food to eat/drink after a workout.
I do not have any authority on dietary issues but I tend to stick to a green smoothie or a glass of fresh coconut water or just plain fruits after my workouts. This has worked well for me over the years.
There seems to be a lot of information around that appears credible with “research” to back it up. From what I heard in an author interview recently, “wheat” is the same as it’s always been, just the method of processing has changed, over the years. China will not accept any GMO foods, so other than “breeding” for better yields and such (which has been going on since the 1950s or earlier), fewer farms produce GMO corn than might be suspected . . . but I can’t say for sure without MORE investigations.
To me, the issue with many yogurts if HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN Syrup rather than real sugar . . . and the amounts of it. I concur that yogurt is not the be-all diet item.
II like the burrito idea! Possibly could use Italian bread as a substitute for the tortilla?
Blend your own organic fruits and vegetables it’s the best way to create a healthy smoothie for workouts !!! All dairy products are bad except one if you can find kefir without sugar now that is something to think about. Good luck gents 🙂