Post-Workout Meal Ideas: 15 Best Foods to Refuel After a Workout

15 best post-workout meal ideas
15 best post-workout meal ideas

Some people believe just because they exercise, they don’t have to watch what they eat. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

In fact, getting your body the nutrients it needs becomes more important when you work out.

That’s because your body relies on protein to repair and build muscles, carbs for its main source of energy, and healthy fats to help absorb more nutrients and support cell growth.

Getting proper nutrients in your diet through healthy eating especially post-workout can help you reach your fitness goal much faster and build a much stronger body than before.

What Should You Eat After a Workout?

Whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight, what you eat after your workout tells your body whether to keep burning fat or storing it.

And to understand what to eat after a workout, it’s important to understand how your body gets affected by exercise. 

With it, you can properly fuel your body with the right nutrients it needs and maximizes the benefits of our workout. 

During exercise, your body uses glycogen stores for fuel, which results in depletion. Exercise also triggers the breakdown of muscle fibers and muscle damage during the process (12). 

After the workout, your body tries to replenish its glycogen stores and repairs and rebuilds those muscle proteins. To do that, your body needs the right nutrition, specifically carbohydrates, and proteins.

This is why what you eat after a workout matters so much. 

Generally speaking, your post-workout meal should accomplish these specific purposes. 

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown 
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
  • Restore depleted glycogen stores
  • Speed up recovery

In doing so, you can speed up recovery, increase performance, improve your body, and prevent injury. 

The bottom line is, you need to provide your body with what it needs to recover from exercise in your post-workout meal. 


This section will briefly discuss each macronutrient—protein, carbs, and fat. And more importantly, how it plays an important role in your post-workout meal and recovery.

Macronutrients are what make up every diet. While the macronutrient distribution can rage and vary from meal to meal, but here is the acceptable range for a healthy meal. 

  • 45-65 % of your daily calories from carbs
  • 20-35% from fats
  • 10-35% from protein

Beyond the distribution, knowing how each works and its benefits is crucial to putting together a meal. 

Protein To Repair and Build Muscle

Exercise triggers muscle breakdown. This makes protein especially important after a workout as it provides the building blocks needed to repair and build new muscles. 

The exact amount of proteins needed depends on your exercise intensity, body size, and sex. But it’s recommended you get about 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5) grams/ kg) right after your workout (1). 

Other studies have also shown 20–40 grams of protein seems effective in maximizing the body’s recovery after a workout (345).

Carbs To Help With Recovery

During your workout, carbohydrates can be substantially depleted in the form of glycogen (6). 

So ensuring your post-workout meal contains a sufficient amount of carbohydrates is also crucial in your recovery. 

How much carbs you take vastly depends on the activity. 

For example, it’s been said that endurance athletes such as distance runners and swimmers need to consume more carbs than a weight lifter or bodybuilder (7).

With that being said, the expert recommends consuming 0.5—0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound (1.1—1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after exercise to maximize glycogen resynthesis (1). 

However, to maximize your recovery, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time (891011).

To be more precise, some studies recommend taking it in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). A good example would be 20 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbohydrates (1213). 

Eating carbs after your workout helps replenishes the body’s lost glycogen during the exercise (14).

Furthermore eating carbohydrates after a workout will not only speed up your muscles recovery but also increase your energy stores which may help you feel less tired and fatigued.

Fats to help Absorb More Nutrients

Some people believe that limiting fat intake will allow them to absorb nutrients from their post-workout meal much quicker.

Fat provides a concentrated source of sustainable energy—And while it slows down the digestion of your meal, it will not negatively affect muscle repair or glycogen replenishment (15). 

Though it may be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after your workout session, having some fat, especially the healthy kind in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery. 

Healthy fats like the one found in avocados and olives help your body absorb more nutrients and support cell growth. 

Your Post Workout Meal Timing Matters

Because your body’s ability to replenish glycogen and rebuild protein fibers is enhanced after your workout, eating a post-workout meal immediately after is recommended (5).  

Though there isn’t necessarily any specified time frame for this, a post-workout meal within 45 minutes of exercise is a good target. 

Eating as late as 2 hours after your workout is said to lower the rate of glycogen synthesis by 50%, so such a delay may not be ideal (58).

Also, if you happen to eat before you exercise, those benefits are said to carry over to after training (81617).

What Should You Eat After a Workout

Again as mentioned above the primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients to ensure proper recovery.

We created a post-workout meal infographic that contains examples of 15 different foods to eat after a workout. 

15 Best Post Workout Meal Ideas

1. Protein Bar
2. Tuna
3. Greek Yogurt
4. Edamame
5. Protein Powder
6. Eggs
7. Fruits & Veggies
8. Oatmeal
9. Quinoa
10. Spelt Bread
11. Brown Rice
12. Spelled Tortilla
13. Avocado
14. Nuts
15. Nut Butter

The Takeaway

Ensuring your body gets an adequate amount of carbs and proteins after your exercise is essential.

It helps replenish lost glycogen, stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and speed up recovery.

And the sooner you are able to eat something, the better, per research. 

The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 45 minutes, and don’t wait for any more than 2 hours post-workout. 

Also, don’t forget to drink enough water as proper hydration is also a key to your recovery and helps transport nutrients throughout the body.

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