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Nutrition is a big part of getting fit.
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As they say, abs are made in the kitchen (but don’t neglect the exercise!).
Or the blender bottle, if you don’t have time to go to the kitchen between gym and class.
Yes, a properly-timed meal can help you lose weight.
Or gain muscle, if that’s your goal.
In fact, why not both?
Either way, a good post-workout meal will help you achieve your goals!
Let’s look at the science first. After that, there are some food recommendations that will help you get the most out of your workout.
Why Eat a Post-Workout Meal?
When you are working out, your body thirsts for energy.
So it goes into a catabolic state, which means it starts to break your muscles down for the energy.
Whether your goal is to gain strength or to lose weight, you don’t want to lose muscle!
A proper post-workout meal can kick your body into an anabolic state.
That’s when it’s producing more muscle.
More muscle means a higher basal metabolic rate, which means that your body burns more calories even at rest.
But that’s not the only benefit of post-workout nutrition.
You’ll also recover faster.
A faster recovery leads to less soreness, more get-up-and-go, and you’ll be able to workout more frequently.
This lets you lose weight faster!
However, you shouldn’t wait for several hours to pass before eating after your workout!
You don’t want to miss the window of opportunity.
The Window of Opportunity
Your body starts recovering immediately after the workout is over.
So, if you wait too long, you won’t get the benefits of a post-workout meal.
This isn’t bro science.
Studies have shown that putting off the meal for two hours leads to worse results than eating soon after the workout!
Don’t feel like you need to stuff your face immediately after you’ve put the dumbbell down, though.
The window of opportunity is about 30 minutes to one hour after the workout is over.
But, what should you eat during that window?
Which Macronutrients Should I Eat?
Just like with the pre-workout meal, you should pay attention to what you eat after you exercise.
Some things are a little bit different though, so pay attention!
The biggest difference is with the carbs.
Your workout routine, especially if it was HIIT, will have depleted your glycogen stores.
Eating carbs now will fill up those stores quickly, letting your body move on to other things.
Your insulin resistance will also be at a low since your muscles need it to get carbs to your muscles.
That insulin won’t just carry carbs, it’ll carry protein, too!
But only if there are carbs to buddy up with.
Since time is important, you want fast acting carbs.
Put away the complex carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, right now we want simple sugars!
If you’re prone to sweets, now is the best time to eat them. Not that they’re a good choice, but if you’re going to have a candy bar anyway, eat it now.
Otherwise, fruit is a good choice. And potatoes.
The slow digestion rate of fats works against them here. It’s not so bad as with the pre-workout meal, but don’t overload on oil and grease after a workout.
Your body is going to repair those muscles, so you gotta take in some repair supplies.
When you need to digest it fast, liquid protein is king.
Whey protein works best but plant-based protein powders are good too. You can check out some of our recommendations here.
Solid, lean protein is almost as good. It’ll digest a little slower but the loss in potential gains will be minimal.
The Best Post-Workout Meals
So, the best post-workout meal will have quickly-digested protein, simple carbs, and not much fat.
Need some ideas? Here are a few!
A glass of chocolate milk is a very easy and surprisingly good post-workout snack!
Especially when made with low-fat milk it hits all of the important points.
Simple carbs? Check.
Fast digestion? Check.
Plus it’s delicious!
Plant milks like almond or soy will likely require supplemental protein powder, though.
A step above chocolate milk is a protein shake.
Protein powders provide lots of protein but tend to lack what you need to replenish your glycogen.
Though plant-based protein powders often contain more carbs than pure whey protein.
So, add the powder to chocolate milk!
Or you can add sugar or honey for some simple carbs.
However, I like to take it a step further and make a full-on smoothie.
You need a blender for this, but it’s worth it.
Take your protein supplement, add the liquid of your choice, then add some extra bits.
Fruits such as bananas are an excellent choice.
Peanut butter is often a great addition, though to cut down on the slowly-digested fats, consider using powdered peanut butter.
Add some creatine to the mix and you will recover even faster!
Tuna Melt Sandwich
Tuna and low-fat cheese provide protein while bread is an easily-digested carb.
This makes a tuna melt sandwich a good choice for a post-workout meal.
You can find the recipe here.
Don’t want to cook something, though?
For a simpler variation, try tuna and crackers.
Make a simple low-fat tuna salad and eat it with crackers of your choice.
Chicken and Potatoes
For lean protein, many people eat chicken.
It really is a good source of what your body needs to rebuild muscles.
Add some potatoes into the mix for a starch that will help you refill your glycogen stores in no time!
Here’s a recipe for easy baked chicken and potatoes.
I wouldn’t recommend getting chicken tenders and fries as a substitute.
That seems like a good combination but that meal will be too high in fat.
Skim Milk and Cereal
So much so that I bet you wouldn’t think of it as a post-workout meal.
Take a bowl of cereal…
…and pour in some milk!
You get carbs and protein, especially if you use a high-protein cereal.
I’ve even added a scoop of protein powder to my cereal bowl!
Make sure not to use too much though. It can thicken up in a hurry!
Skim milk is preferred due to the lack of fat, but I won’t tell on you if you use whole milk.
What you eat after your workout is perhaps more important than what you eat before the workout.
The faster you recover, the faster you can lose excess weight.
Also, a great post-workout meal is simple.
Protein, simple carbs, and few fats.
Chocolate milk and protein powder?
It’s a dessert for your health!