Naturopathic Kitchen: What to Eat After a Workout

Quinoa salad with berries, poached egg and nuts, next to two dumbbells

When choosing what to eat after a workout, it is important to understand what your body needs for recovery and muscle building.

What Happens to Your Body During a Workout?

When you perform strength training or other high-intensity exercise, your muscles need to use their glycogen (a fuel source) for energy. Because your muscles are depleted of glycogen after a workout, it is essential to eat foods that help your body replenish glycogen stores and regrow muscle proteins. 1 2

Pay attention to what you eat after exercising, and try to eat your meal within 45 minutes of finishing your workout for best results. 3

Foods to Eat After Working Out

Pairing the right foods after working out will increase your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs. What you eat (and when you eat it) can have a major impact on the effectiveness of working out, which is why many elite athletes work with naturopathic doctors to create nutrition plans that optimize their performance.

Your ideal post-workout eating plan will depend on your individual exercise plan and fitness goals, but here are some basics that can help get your started. Remember that drinking plenty of water during and after a workout is essential to replenish liquids and keep you hydrated.

Protein

Protein-rich foods provide your body with amino acids. Amino acids work to repair damaged muscle proteins as well as help build new muscle tissue. 4 5 This means that eating protein after a workout will help your muscles to recover as well as increase the growth of new muscles.

Healthy Proteins to Eat After a Workout

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Lean beef
  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Greek yogurt
  • Eggs

Healthy Fat

While more research is needed on the role of fat in muscle recovery, one study shows that eating healthy, full-fat foods after a workout may help to boost muscle growth. 6 Choose unprocessed foods that contain healthy fats, such as omega-3s.

Healthy Fats to Eat After a Workout

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Avocado
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Cheese
  • Full-fat Greek yogurt

Carbohydrates

Many high-carbohydrate foods have a reputation for being unhealthy because they include highly processed foods that are high in refined grains and sugars. However, there are also healthy carbohydrates, and these should be included in your post-workout meal. Consuming healthy carbohydrates after intense exercise helps your body restore its glycogen stores in order to help muscles recover and build new tissue. 7 8

Healthy Carbohydrates to Eat After a Workout

  • Yams and sweet potatoes
  • Edamame
  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Quinoa

Eating a healthy, balanced diet of whole foods is an essential part of any physical fitness plan. If you would like assistance creating a meal plan to complement your exercise plan, speak to a naturopathic doctor today.

 

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