Post-workout foods to keep your energy up

    Properly fueling your body after a workout is just as important as fueling it beforehand! During any kind of workout, you are likely elevating your heart rate and working an array of muscles. All of this contributes to the use, and therefore the loss, of energy. To adequately replenish your body to pre-workout energy levels, you need to fuel up with both macronutrients and hydration. Below, we share points of consideration for your next post-workout meal, as well as a few recipe ideas.

    Things to Consider:

    When deciding on the perfect post-workout meal or snack, there is not one go-to option that will work for everybody, as people perform different workouts for various time lengths. The biggest consideration in your post-workout meal is the type of workout you are performing, or have just completed. For example, if you are completing a cardio-heavy workout, like HIIT, dance, or cycling, then you are burning more calories and using more energy than in a lower intensity workout, like barre or yoga. During a workout, your body uses glycogen as fuel. Carbohydrate consumption after a workout has been shown to promote this glycogen storage. In addition, protein helps with exercise recovery by stimulating protein synthesis in the muscles. So after an intense cardio workout, you may opt for a carbohydrate and protein-heavy meal.

    All workouts, and especially weight training workouts, break down muscle protein. To help compensate, protein consumption directly after a workout gives your body the amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, necessary to both repair and rebuild these proteins. To aid in and maximize glycogen synthesis after exercise, experts recommend consuming carbohydrates and proteins at the same time. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the 3 to 1 ratio, that is, consuming a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein after your workout.

    Another factor of consideration is the amount of energy and glycogen being used. Endurance sports, like running and cardio-based workouts like HIIT, cause your body to use more glycogen than a strength training workout. Since you are using more glycogen in a cardio-intensive workout than in a weightlifting or resistance training workout, it is a good idea to consume more carbohydrates.

    Hydration

    From CrossFit to hot yoga to barre, it is essential to hydrate after any type of exercise. The American Council on Exercise suggests drinking eight ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after your workout.

    Water is usually a sufficient way to stay hydrated; however, if you are an athlete or you are performing a high-intensity workout for over an hour, you may want to consider having a sports drink. Sports drinks typically provide electrolytes, calories, and potassium to aid in post-workout hydration and fuel. One thing to keep in mind is that sports drinks often contain added sugars or sugar alcohol, so be sure to check the nutritional facts and ingredients. 

    Post-workout recipe ideas:

    Now that you know the essentials that consist of a sufficient post-workout meal, here are a few recommendations for ways to refuel and recover after your next workout. You’ve likely heard of most of these, as they are the tried-and-true suggestions that provide the macronutrients and hydration that are essential after the completion of a workout.

    Hydrating smoothie:

    A post-workout smoothie is an easy and refreshing way to capitalize on protein and hydration. Adding water, milk, ice cubes, frozen fruit, and protein powder to your smoothie offers both hydration and protein. Pair this hydrating and protein-rich smoothie with a carbohydrate-rich option, like a slice of whole-grain toast, to check off all the essential boxes for a post-workout meal.

    Rocky mountain egg:

    A rocky mountain egg, consisting of a slice of toast with the center of the bread removed and filled with a sunny-side-up egg, provides the protein and carbohydrates you need with a classic breakfast appeal. This classic breakfast combination is a great way to fuel up on protein and carbohydrates after a workout. Depending on the intensity of your workout, you may opt for another serving of a rocky mountain egg.

    Yogurt bowl with berries and granola:

    Unsweetened yogurt is packed with protein. Just a single serving of protein can provide you with upwards of 10 grams of protein, depending on the kind of yogurt you have on hand. When paired with crunchy granola and fresh berries, this post-workout meal not only offers protein and carbohydrates but an irresistibly sweet and crunchy topping.

    Oatmeal:

    Oatmeal paired with flaxseed and protein powder and topped with fresh fruit and nut butter is the perfect warm, post-workout meal that will leave you feeling full and fueled.

    Snack options:

    Sometimes you’ll finish a workout and you either aren’t extremely hungry or you are short on time. Either way, post-workout snacks are a great way to get in protein and carbohydrates, but in a slightly smaller portion size. Snack options include canned tuna and crackers, hummus with pita bread and carrots, energy bars, and granola with cottage cheese.

    Jenny Lieberman is a recipe developer, certified group fitness instructor, and recent high school graduate from Boca Raton, FL. She loves all things health and wellness, so you will probably find her looking up the newest food and fitness trends. She is currently on a gap year program at Midreshet Torah v’Avodah (MTVA) in Jerusalem, Israel. Jenny will be attending the University of Maryland, College Park, starting Fall 2021. You can follow Jenny on her Instagram healthy food account (@toomuchonmyplate_) to see more of her recipes!