Posted on May. 29, 2014 (
The food choices you make (or don’t make) after a workout are just as important as your pre workout meal or snack.
If you are a recreational exerciser who works out a few times per week, what you eat after a workout is not as important as it is for a competitive athlete who trains once or twice daily.
When your workouts are less intense and less frequent, you will have enough time for your muscle energy stores to recover before the next workout.
If you do exercise once or twice daily for most days of the week, your food choices following a workout need to be able to replace muscle and liver glycogen (stored carbohydrate). To replace glycogen in your body, you need to eat carbohydrate-rich foods. If you eat or drink a food or beverage that contains carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercise, your body is actually able to replace depleted stores faster than if you wait a longer period of time. It can take up to 48 hours to recover glycogen stores so ultimately, your overall diet should be rich in carbohydrates (about 60-65% of your daily calories).
Liquids and foods work equally as well at replenishing your glycogen stores but foods with a higher glycemic index will replenish fastest. Protein has been shown to enhance glycogen replacement. A lot of protein is not required after workouts but a little protein with your carbohydrate snack or meal can help with faster recovery.
Enjoying a dairy product like chocolate milk (higher carbohydrate then unflavored), yogurt (fruit flavored for extra carbohydrates), or a combination of foods that provide both carbohydrates and protein are great choices for recovery.
Some examples of foods to eat for recovery are:
- Fruit juice and a string cheese
- Fruit flavored yogurt
- Dried cereal with milk
- Sports drink
- Bagel with lean deli meat
- Chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla flavored milk
Do you have a favorite post-workout snack? Share it with us.
Lisa Lovejoy is a Sports and Wellness Dietitian for MultiCare. Her services include body composition assessment, resting metabolic rate testing and nutrition counseling for individuals and groups. More stories by this author