What you need to know about post-workout nutrition

August 19, 2020 Shannon Ehrhardt

Challenging yourself in the gym is the first step in being fitter, stronger, and more powerful. During each training session, you’re purposely damaging tissues to then rebuild and repair that tissue to achieve results. But are you wasting your workout?

Maybe. We’re not saying your investment in the gym isn’t worth it, it is. But if you don’t eat and drink the right things after you work out, you’re missing an opportunity to maximize potential. And it’s not just being your best, it’s also about decreasing injury risk, recovering properly, and prepping for your next gym trip.

Here’s what you need to know to optimize your post-workout snack.

Timing is everything

At the end of a workout, your cells are wide open and screaming for nutrients. Eating after your training session can jump-start the recovery process by replenishing glycogen stores, strengthening the immune system, and stimulating muscle protein synthesis and repair. Aim to eat within 30 minutes after your training — within 10 minutes is even better.

And you’re not just feeding your hungry cells, you’re also protecting your hard work. While some think depriving the body of nutrients forces it to deplete fat stores, it doesn’t work that way. Instead it decimates hard-earned lean muscle mass for energy, and lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest and during training. So, not fueling up is making your body a less efficient calorie burner.

Don’t forget about balance

So, what do you feed those screaming cells? Protein and carbs. That’s their favorite combo. Protein aids tissue repair and carbohydrates help to replace muscle glycogen or your energy stores, maximizing the recovery process.

But it’s not just as simple as just eating any proteins or carbs. You need the right amount. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein, and then the amount of carbohydrates will depend on the intensity level of your training session.

  • 1:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for lower to moderate training intensity sessions
  • 2:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for moderate to high intensity
  • 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for high-intensity, long-duration sessions

If you work out right before lunch or dinner, that meal can serve as your post-workout nutrition, or you can grab something quick that has the right ratio – depending on your daily calorie needs.

Snack on these easy options

Your post-workout nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. These are good, quick options:

  • Blend a shake: A shake made with a protein powder, such as Onnit’s Grass-Fed Whey Protein, a banana or berries, and some milk or a milk alternative is a simple at-home option.
  • Grab a protein bar or bites: We like Onnit’s bars and bites, which have an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio to help support recovery, if you’re on the go.
  • Make a sandwich: A half turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jelly also would do the job.
  • Pick a breakfast fav: Try Greek yogurt or a couple of hard-boiled eggs with some fruit.
  • Go for chocolate. Chocolate milk, with a proper mix of carbs and protein, has served athletes as a reliable recovery standby for years (we’ve even served it up at our EXOS facilities).

Want a deeper dive on protein shakes? Get all the information on which protein shake is best for your goals.

EXOS believe is using safe, high-quality supplements. That’s why we recommend Onnit foods and supplements.

About the Author

Shannon Ehrhardt

Shannon Ehrhardt, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.C.S., is a senior performance dietitian at EXOS and has worked in sports performance for over 10 years. With a master's degree in exercise physiology and nutrition, she works with EXOS' nutrition partner Onnit, supporting the performance goals of athletes and working alongside the product development team.

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