Properly Fueling Your Workouts Part IV: Post Workout

Properly Fueling Your Workouts: Part Four - Post-Workout Nutrition

By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN


In the last week of my proper fueling series I want to discuss the importance of post-workout nutrition. This is something that often gets overlooked in our training routines. We may think about what we need before and during, but we donít think about after our workout. This is the optimal time to get in good nutrition.


There is a window of opportunity that exists in the hour after you workout. During this window, your muscles are like sponges. They are sitting and waiting to absorb nutrients you consume. Absorption of protein, healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals is at its highest in the hour after a workout. To optimize recovery, try to get something into your body 0-60 minutes after you workout.


The purpose of a post-workout meal or snack is to recover from your workout, training, or competition. The right foods will replenish glycogen (carbohydrates) stores in the muscles that you burned off. Insulin will be released with the right meal or snack which will stimulate muscle building and repair in the body. It may also help decrease muscle soreness after a workout. If you do not properly fuel after your workout, your next session may seem difficult. You could feel fatigued, weak, and slow. You could also be putting yourself at risk of injury if your muscles didnít receive the proper nutrition to recover.


The ideal meal or snack post-workout should consist of carbohydrates and lean proteins. And it doesnít have to be a huge meal, a small snack around 100-300 calories is perfectly fine. So if you donít feel like eating right after your workout, donít worry. Here are some examples of post-workout snacks and meals:

  • Turkey Sandwich on whole grain bread

  • Fruit Smoothie made with yogurt or a good quality whey protein

  • Reduced-fat Cheese and crackers

  • Bowl of cereal with milk (cowís milk or soy for the protein) and a banana

  • Chocolate milk

  • Peanut Butter sandwich on whole grain bread

  • Granola bar with high protein

  • Low-fat, flavored, greek yogurt with blueberries

  • Cottage cheese and triscuits


Donít forget the importance of proper hydration as well. A small decrease of 1% of your body weight in sweat can lead to an impaired performance. Thatís only 1.5 lbs. For a 150-lb. Person, which could easily be done in an hour workout. Drink about 8-20 oz. in the hour before a workout to help hydrate you. During your workout, make sure you consume about 16-24 oz. per hour. Post-workout, drink an additional 16-24 oz. of water per pound of sweat lost. The easiest way to evaluate your hydration status is to check the color of your urine. A clear or pale yellow color means you are well-hydrated. Anything darker than that means you are not drinking enough fluids.


In summary, proper fueling for exercise requires the right balance of calories, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Hydration is an essential part of fueling and overall health. Choose the right to foods to maximize intake of essential vitamins and minerals. I promise you, if you follow the tips outlined the last 4 weeks, you will have more efficient workouts with better results.