5 Great Foods to Eat After Weight Training
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Refuel and recover with these healthy and delicious foods
Eat the right foods and you won’t feel so wiped out after your workout.
When you’re weight training, you need to adjust your diet for maximum results. Here are five great foods to eat post-workout.
Chickpea hummus is high in both protein and carbohydrates so you can build muscle and feel full.
Peanut butter is a high-protein snack. However, beware of low-fat varieties; they’re often higher in sugar, which will undo all your hard work and clean eating.
Bananas are an excellent, nutrient-rich source of carbohydrates, so they’ll replenish your energy and help you regain the strength you zapped while lifting.
It may seem a little strange to chow down on starchy potatoes after an intense workout, but sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants so they’ll help your muscles repair themselves more quickly.
If your muscles are sore, add some blueberries to your yogurt or protein shake. Blueberries are good sources of antioxidants that protect against muscle-damaging wastes produced during your workout.
What’s the Best Food to Eat After a Workout?
You know you need to fuel up properly before you work out, but post-exercise nutrition is also important.
What you eat after a workout can help replenish your body and improve recovery after a workout session — and depending on the intensity of your workout, if you skip out on a post-workout snack altogether, you may be missing out on a chance to boost the protein synthesis that plays a key role in muscle repair and growth.
So what are the best foods to eat after a workout? These 6 tips can help you make the most of that post-workout window.
What — and when — you eat after your workout depends on what you’re doing and how long you’re doing it.
“This decision will be based on how quickly you need recovery to happen,” says Marisa Michael, R.D.N., CPT, specialist in sports dietetics and nutrition. “But most people will be in good shape having a meal within an hour or two after most types of exercising,” she adds.
If you’re an elite athlete doing multiple workouts in a day, however, you may want to refuel immediately after a workout.
And if you’re doing a particularly long or intense workout, you may want to prioritize eating within 30 minutes after your workout, says Shena Jaramillo, R.D.
When planning your post-workout meal, aim for about 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein and 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates, Michael recommends.
Need ideas? A few healthy options include:
- a smoothie with protein powder, paired with a turkey veggie wrap
- a quinoa bowl with veggies and chicken
- a peanut butter sandwich and chocolate milk
For a lighter snack, Jaramillo recommends tuna and crackers a banana with peanut butter or a protein shake.
“Protein shakes can be an easy way to meet your hydration and nutrition needs post-workout,” Jaramillo says.
Another easy way to get the protein you need post-workout: Try Beachbody Performance Recover, which provides 20 grams of protein along with pomegranate extract and branched-chain amino acids to support recovery after an intense workout.*
“Skipping a meal and waiting several hours after working out to eat is the worst strategy,” Michael warns. “If you do that, you won’t restore glycogen to your muscles and get the useful carbs and protein you need for recovery.”
Maybe you’ve run a 5K where a post-race beer was part of the festivities, but in general, alcohol shouldn’t be part of your post-workout plan, as it may inhibit your training gains and recovery process, Michael says.
Also, skip snacks that are high in saturated fat and low in nutrient density. A snack that includes some healthy fats — like avocado slices — is fine after a workout, but anything too greasy could make you feel bloated.
Don’t limit your healthy eating habits to your post-workout meals and snacks. Be sure to eat balanced meals and nutrient-dense snacks at regular intervals throughout the day as well, Michael says.
And if you’re doing intense exercise, she suggests increasing your carb intake throughout the day.
Along with getting the right mix of nutrients, make sure you’re on track with your hydration, no matter what type of workout you’ve done.
Even low-impact or slower exercise sessions like a yoga class should include rehydrating afterward.
To stay hydrated throughout your workout, try Beachbody Performance Hydrate, which is specially formulated to provide an optimal balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water.
Bottom line? Think of post-workout nutrition as part of your overall fitness strategy — not just an optional step — and it can help you see the results you want faster.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
How Knowing What to Eat to Gain Muscle Leads to Better Results
If you&rsquore trying to get muscles that are bigger and stronger, working out is key. Strength training breaks down muscle tissue. During recovery that tissue rebuilds stronger and bigger.
But, your body can&rsquot create that new muscle tissue out of nothing. To make gains you have to have the right nutrients in your body to construct muscle.
This means that what you eat, and how much, is essential in making muscle gains. Lifting and doing strength training without adequate nutrition, especially without enough protein, can actually lead to loss of muscle tissue.
Furthermore, if you aren&rsquot eating right you won&rsquot have the energy to do the workouts that lead to muscle gain.
To make the most gains in muscle mass and strength you need:
- Enough calories total, each day,
- And adequate protein to actually rebuild more muscle tissue.
If you eat a lot of protein but not enough overall calories, you&rsquoll struggle to be able to workout to build more muscle.
If you eat enough calories but too much junk and not enough protein, your body won&rsquot be able to build up muscle tissue and will gain fat instead.
What should you eat after working out?
Physical activity uses a lot of energy. It is difficult for the body to recover if energy levels are not replenished within 15 to 30 minutes after finishing a workout. Eating even a little snack shortly after exercising can help to restore energy levels.
In this article, we explore several components of a healthful post-workout snack and describe how they benefit the body.
Share on Pinterest Eating a snack after a workout will help the body replenish lost energy.
The following are examples of foods and compounds that help the body to absorb nutrients quickly and speed recovery.
According to research published in 2017, as few as 9 grams (g) of milk protein may be enough to stimulate protein synthesis in the muscles, aiding in recovery after exercise.
Other than milk, dairy products rich in protein include:
In fact, a 1 cup serving of low-fat kefir contains 9.2 g of high-quality protein. These proteins can repair new cells, especially those in the muscles. These proteins also contain all of the essential amino acids, which are only available through the diet.
In 2007, some researchers found that milk-based proteins are more effective than soy-based proteins at promoting the growth of muscle proteins after resistance exercise.
The researchers concluded that while both milk and soy proteins help a person to maintain and build muscle mass, milk proteins were more effective at supporting the quick growth of lean muscle mass.
Results of a study from 2017 suggested that consuming whole eggs after resistance exercise resulted in more protein synthesis than consuming egg whites with the same protein content.
The researchers concluded that the nutrients in the yolk helped to stimulate the muscles more effectively.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Research from the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids helps to boost the synthesis of muscle proteins and increase the size of muscle cells in healthy young and middle-aged adults.
Fatty fish, including salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna also contains high levels of the fatty acids, and about 6 ounces (oz) of tuna packed in water contains 41.6 g of protein and 5.4 g of fat.
Other evidence shows that oil drawn from fatty fish may help to reduce muscle soreness after resistance training. A study from 2016 found that consuming 6 g of fish oil every day for 1 week before beginning resistance exercise resulted in reduced muscle soreness.
Share on Pinterest Staying hydrated is essential when exercising.
Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods may be the best way to reduce the decreases in immunity that can occur after exercise.
Consuming carbohydrates as part of a post-workout snack also helps to promote glycogen storage.
Sweet potatoes, grains, and fruits can contain high levels of healthful carbohydrates, as can quinoa.
Quinoa is gluten-free, classified as a pseudocereal, and usually consumed as a grain. It is high in fiber and rich in protein, with 1 cup providing 8.14 g .
Also, quinoa has a low glycemic index, making it an excellent choice for people who regulate their blood sugar.
The nutrients and chemical compounds in herbal teas, especially yerba mate, may help the body process carbohydrates and protein effectively.
Authors of a study from 2016 compared the effects of yerba mate to water after exercise. The participants who drank yerba mate recovered strength faster in the 24 hours that followed a workout.
In 2012, researchers found that mice administered yerba mate extract were able to metabolize more quickly and expend more energy than those who did not.
It is essential to drink plenty of water before, during, and after a workout. Staying hydrated ensures that the body gets the most benefit from exercise.
The body loses water and electrolytes while sweating, so drinking water during and after a workout promotes performance and recovery.
Everybody varies in the amount of water they need, depending on the type of exercise, how much they sweat, how thirsty they are, as well as other factors.
The Best Snacks To Eat After Strength Training
After you finish working out, your body is in a state of recovery. You probably feel tired, and that's because you are tired. Your muscles are minutely injured, and any energy and nutrients your body had stored away have probably been used up. Nutrients will help you heal properly, so you need to get the ones you've lost back into your system as soon as you're finished pumping iron. How do you do that? Only our favorite way: With a nutritious snack.
Before you pick your snack, it's important to understand that different workouts necessitate different nutrients in different ratios. For example, after an intense cardio sesh you're going to want to stock up on a bunch of carbs and a bit of protein. Strength training, however, is a different ball of wax.
"You are left with microscopic tears in your muscle cells after lifting weights," Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles M.S., R.D.N., certified sports dietitian, tells SELF. While tearing your muscles may sound bad, it’s actually good. That tearing is what allows them to build up and heal stronger. But they aren't going to heal all on their own. According to Giles, "nutrients are needed to build back these muscles."
After strength training, the nutrients that will most help with recovery are protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. "Protein replenishes the muscle cell damage, carbohydrates replenish blood sugar loss, and good fats control inflammation," Giles explains, and no matter the intensity of your strength training workout, you should always aim to eat a ratio of 4:1 protein to carbs. And she says you should try to eat your snack 15 to 20 minutes after you wrap things up at the gym.
One thing that does change with the intensity of your workout is the size of your snack. Usually in the beginning of your strength training practice, Giles says your workouts will tend to be more basic. A lighter intensity workout might consist of 10 to 12 reps of chest presses, barbell squats with lighter weights, push-ups, dips, and pull-ups. After these lighter intensity workouts, Giles says you should eat a snack between 100 and 200 calories.
Further along in your practice, she says your workouts will begin to get more intense. Higher intensity workouts usually include the use of heavier weights, and fewer reps (6 to 9) of moves like deadlifts, leg presses, and jump squats. After these higher intensity workouts, she says to eat between 300 and 500 calories. Below, you can find some snack options for each of these different levels of intensity.
These snacks are incredibly simple to throw together and can even be tossed in your gym bag before you head to your workout.
- Homemade granola made with whole oats, dried fruit and nuts
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Non-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of edamame
These snacks are a little bit more like meals. And that's OK. After an intense strength training workout is not the time to being worried about counting calories (though you still don’t want to go totally crazy). Giles says these are exactly what you need.
Your Body After a Workout
A lot of things are happening in your body when you lift weights, beginning first and foremost with muscle damage. While damage doesn't exactly sound beneficial, it is in fact the first phase in a series of cycles that triggers new muscles to grow stronger than before.
Repeatedly lifting weights, creating muscle tension or even endurance exercises like biking or running can create tiny tears in your muscle fibers. During the period of time following lifting or exercising, those muscle tears are rebuilt through food and rest, resulting in a variety of changes.
Your muscle fibers grow in diameter (hypertrophy) and length (sarcomerogenesis). There's also an increase in collagen tissue and tendon stiffness, capillaries providing blood inside the muscle and movement coordination, among others. All these changes work together over a long period of training to transform your body into that of a toned bodybuilder.
Overall, building muscle and strength can result in a lot of body changes, including becoming leaner, increasing your metabolic rate and reducing your risk of injury, according to an April 2016 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science.
Strength training can also build up skeletal muscle that is lost when you age. And for athletes, including runners, bikers and swimmers, building strength can assist in improving your speed and power of movement.
Depending on whether you're focusing on light or heavy lifting, it can have an effect on cardio as well. Lighter weights and high reps tend to be more of an aerobic workout, increasing your heart rate and burning more fat. Heavier lifting, meanwhile, mainly breaks down your muscle fibers. Typically, heavier lifting will result in more muscle mass and strengthened bone density.
A July 2016 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology however, did not find significant differences in the development of muscle mass between people who did lighter and heavier lifts. In fact, it may be best to do a variety of lifting — both heavy sets and quicker, lighter sets to mix in some cardio.
If your goal is to lose weight and also build muscle, you may want to start out with lighter lifts. All of this will determine how much you eat, when you eat and what you eat.
Your post workout nutrition needs are most heavily determined by your overall fitness goals - whether you are looking to lose fat, gain muscle, or improve your performance. The need for recovery fuel can also differ from one person to the next depending on what you ate before the gym, how hard your workout was, when you plan to eat your next meal, and your daily calorie and macro goals.
For the everyday, non-athlete individual, adequate post-workout nutrition is most likely accomplished by eating a meal within a couple of hours of leaving the gym. But for those looking to get more strategic with their intake, fine-tuning your recovery options and timing can certainly offer some potential benefits.
Based on your overall health goals, here is how to plan for the ultimate post-workout game-plan:
Similar to pre-workout foods, recovery and refueling can often be accomplished through normal eating for most people, and a large amount of food or carbs for replenishment is not always necessary - especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Often times people will feel pressured to consume a specific post-workout snack or beverage, but when you are trying to cut calories, this can cause you to add unnecessary intake to your day, and essentially “waste your workout”.
When it comes to fat loss, the key things to consider are:
- Daily calorie control
- Whether or not you ate before the gym
- The timing for your next meal
- The type and duration of the workout
As long as you maintain overall calorie control, post-workout foods are not going to ruin your diet. But if they are adding additional calories, you may want to skip it and juts eat your next meal instead.
If you workout fasted, your body is in greater need of some sort of recovery, especially protein for your muscles. But again, as long as you eat a meal within an hour or two of the gym you should be just fine.
Be realistic with yourself. If you aren't training for long periods of time, or at high levels of intensity, you likely don't need a specific recovery regimen.
Bottom line: As long as you maintain daily calorie control, what you eat after a workout does not significantly impact your ability to burn or lose body fat.
If you are looking to gain muscle, post-workout nutrition becomes slightly more important. Mainly because it’s an opportunity to add more calories to your day and support weight gain. Additionally, including a healthy mix of carbs and protein after the gym can benefit muscle hypertrophy and recovery.
This becomes even more important if you are working out fasted, as your muscle stores are depleted already and hungry for fuel. Prolonging this fasted state is likely not going to do you any favors, and may potentially inhibit muscle protein synthesis. Thus, it is important to make sure you eat something after the gym if you are looking to put on muscle mass.
Depending on your level of intensity and duration, the recommended intakes for carbs and protein are:
For a 150 pound adult, this would equal 68 to 102 grams of carbs and 20 to 35 grams of protein -which can easily be accomplished with a balanced meal.
Bottom line: Post-workout meals are an opportunity for calories and key nutrients that support your muscle building efforts.
If you are looking to improve your overall fitness. Nutrient timing can be something to play with. However, this still comes as part of the full diet package deal - meaning a single meal before or after the gym is not going to impact your performance as much as your overall intake and consistent nutrition strategy.
If you are looking at post-workout foods to help you train harder or perform at a higher level, your focus should be on the following:
- Replenishing lost glycogen stores
- Adding protein to assist in muscle repair and growth
- Nutrient-dense foods that promote good nutrition for overall recovery
To support better recovery, aim to get a macro balanced meal - moderate carb, high protein, and moderate fat within a few hours of training and resume normal eating for the day to replenish lost fuel and repair any muscle damage. Additionally, you'll want to drink plenty of fluids for adequate hydration.
The more intense your workout, the more calories and carbs you need.
Bottom line: Your overall daily intake is much more impactful to your fitness goals than post-workout meals. And for most people, a healthy, balanced meal after the gym is plenty to refuel and replenish your body.
What to eat on a cardio, strength, and rest day
If you eat 3 hours before training: include carbs from whole foods, protein, and fats in your meal. Try out this sweet potato skins recipe. If you eat less than 1 hour before training: opt for a shake or smoothie that includes carbs and protein, but is low in fiber so that it’s easy to digest.
Hydrate with water and/or an electrolyte drink, especially in warm weather. If you are exercising for more 90 minutes, have a sports drink that contains carbs. Most people burn between 30 to 60 g of carbs per hour, depending on body size and metabolism.
Plan to wait 45-60 minutes after exercising to eat this will help you maximize your time in the fat burning zone. (1) Your post exercise meal should contain carbs and protein from whole foods in a ratio of 3:1. There is no need for fast-digesting refined carbs, since the carbs from whole foods will replenish your glycogen stores by the next day. However, if you do plan to work out twice a day, you will need to consume some fast carbs after the first workout. You might just love this chickpea avocado salad.
If you need help determining the amount of carbs that you need to take in for the day, check out the Runtastic Carb Calculator here:
Strength Training Day
If you eat 2-3 hours before training: include carbs from whole foods, protein, and fats in your meal. You can try our easy recipe for a spicy shakshuka . If you eat less than 1 hour before training, opt for a shake or smoothie that includes carbs and protein.
- During :
Take in some BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids). BCAAs are a group of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They are considered the building blocks of muscle protein. Also, since BCAA supplements require no digestion, they bypass the liver and go right into the bloodstream for instant use by the muscles. Consuming BCAAs during exercise has been shown to increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis and reduce the extent of muscle damage and soreness post workout. (2)
Plan to eat within 15-30 minutes after a strength session. (3, 4) You want to get the nutrients in quickly so that you can replenish your muscles and allow them to grow stronger. Eating protein after exercise prevents protein breakdown and stimulates synthesis, encouraging faster recovery and adaptation.
This is the perfect time to try out some low carb recipes . You don’t need to top up your carb stores or add extra protein to your meals since you’re not exercising. Make sure that you’re consuming enough healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, and grass fed butter. Fats can slow digestion, but this is something you don’t have to worry about on a non-workout day. On rest days there’s no need to stick to a schedule of when to eat. Wait until hunger strikes to consume your meals. Here’s a recipe suggestion for you: low carb pizza.
While it’s important to take in quality carbs, fats, and protein every day, here are the key differences for fueling for cardio vs strength training:
Post-workout, you’re on autopilot to grab a protein shake. But protein powder alone doesn’t always provide the right nutrition prescription, especially for aching muscles. The solution: add blueberries. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, helping prevent free radical damage to your muscles from a workout. It was also reported by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that muscle recovery was expedited after ingestion of a blueberry shake pre- and post-workout.
Eating to Grow: The Top 10 Foods for Building Muscle
Wondering what to eat after your workouts? These foods pack the most protein per serving to fuel your growth!
If you're trying to gain size, you can spend two hours in the weight room, hammering out set after set, but it won't mean much if you aren't eating a muscle-focused diet.Size gains come from two foundational actions: tearing the muscle down with training, and building it back up with nutrition. And nutrition means protein.
Below are the top 10 protein-packed foods you can eat to support muscle growth. But before you dig in, take a minute to figure out how much you need to eat.
Eat More Than You Burn
To build muscle and gain size, you must eat more calories than you burn—the opposite of a fat-burning diet. An easy way to calculate your daily caloric needs is with an online calorie calculator.
Based on your goals and current physical activity level, you'll get a calorie range to achieve each day, usually 200-300 calories more than your maintenance level, meaning the number of calories you must eat to maintain your current weight.
If you find yourself struggling to get enough calories and protein just from whole foods, supplements such as whey protein can help you to reach your daily caloric needs.
Top 10 Muscle-Building Foods
Now that you know how much you need to eat, here are the best animal- and plant-based foods you can enjoy after your workout to help you achieve your muscle-building goals. Since protein-rich foods contain the most amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue, we'll focus on the healthiest foods with the highest protein per 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving. Many of them also contain heart-healthy fatty acids, digestion-supporting complex carbohydrates, and micronutrients such as zinc and magnesium.
1. Chicken Breast
Is there any food more associated with bodybuilding and muscle growth than the chicken breast? Cost effective, easy to prepare, and packed with protein, chicken breasts are the ideal muscle-building food. We recommend buying a large pack, cooking them in bulk, and dividing them up for lunch and dinner meals throughout the week.
2. Hemp Seeds
Many plant foods must be mixed to form a complete protein for example, eating brown rice with peas. Hemp seeds are an exception, giving you 32 grams of completely bioavailable protein per 100-gram serving. Take note of the fat content: The same serving has almost 50 grams of healthy fats.
3. Lean Pork Chops
Back to animal sources. Use lean pork chops as you would chicken breasts. You can cook them in bulk and interchange them throughout the week for lunches or dinners.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds are a complete protein source and are high in fatty acids, making them excellent to snack on throughout the day.
5. Canned Albacore Tuna
Another bodybuilding staple, canned albacore tuna is also a convenient, cost-effective option for supporting your muscle-building goals. We highly recommend buying only brands associated with responsible and sustainable fishing practices to avoid dangerous levels of heavy metals. Examples include Safe Catch, Wild Planet, and Trader Joe's.
6. Wild Salmon
Famously high in omega-3 fatty acids, wild salmon also contains 25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving. Wild salmon is recommended, but farmed salmon is OK, too. Just be sure to limit your consumption of farmed salmon.
One egg contains around 6 grams of protein along with zinc and healthy fats. If you're like most people, you eat more than one egg at a time, so the protein count adds up quickly. Opt for brown eggs over white.
Soybeans have been shown to support cardiovascular health. We highly recommend eating only fermented or sprouted soybeans avoid the processed stuff.
9. Greek Yogurt
Carbohydrate free and packed with protein, Greek yogurt will quickly become a favorite muscle-building snack.
Chickpeas are great on their own, as a side dish, or blended to make hummus.
Do You Have a Favorite Muscle-Building Meal?
What does your bodybuilding meal plan look like? Is there a favorite lean-mass food that we missed? Need more ideas for what to eat in order to gain size? Let us know in the comments!