Should I eat after a workout?

If you are trying to cut back on calories you might think not eating after a workout is a good idea. Think again. Eating after a workout is essential. Here’s why.

Food is fuel

Workouts burn energy just like cars burn gas. Like your car, your body will need to replenish its energy stores. Nutritionists recommend eating something within 30 minutes of exercise. This is particularly important if your workout is intense, you are trying to build muscle, and/or you didn’t eat for several hours before exercise. Choose a post-workout snack that includes protein and carbs. A high-quality snack does more than taste good. It also:

  • Replenishes glycogen stores. Glycogen is a form of glucose the body needs for energy.
  • Supports muscle growth.
  • Improves recovery and reduces muscle soreness.
  • Repairs damaged muscle tissue tears.

Why protein and carbs?

The short answer is carbs give you back some energy. Protein helps build muscle. Aim for a 2 (carbs) to 1 (protein) ratio. If you are an endurance athlete, or after a long, hard workout you may need to increase your protein. Use this formula:

  • Divide your weight by 2.2 to get kilograms

Multiply that number by multiplying by 0.4 and 0.5 to get the recommended range. offers this example: If you weigh 130 pounds, divide that by 2.2 and you’ll get 59 kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.4 and 0.5 to get a protein range. In this case, it’s 24 to 30 grams.

Don’t forget fat

Fat has a role to play in good health and weight loss. The key is moderation. Including some fat in your diet can boost satiety, which means you may actually eat less. After exercise, including some fat in your post workout snack can boost muscle recovery.

Great post-workout snack options….

  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • Hummus and pita.
  • Tuna on whole-wheat
  • Bananas with peanut butter
  • Chocolate milk
  • Almonds with cheese

For dinner think quinoa, sweet potatoes or brown rice with grilled chicken breast or salmon.

Eating after a workout can support your fitness goals if your goal is to build muscle. Post-workout food also matters after vigorous exercise. Skipping the meal or snack can hamper recovery, slow muscle growth and leave you with low energy. Choose quality foods that don’t undermine your efforts. After all, a hard workout is not an excuse to overindulge in a calorie heavy feast. Remember, weight loss is often sabotaged by overestimating the number of calories burned with exercise and underestimating caloric intake. Don’t make that mistake.