A post-workout meal is critical for optimal recovery, body function, and body composition.

What you (and your clients) need to be eating in a post-workout meal

Fitness and nutrition information is getting better and better. There was a time when all we seemed to talk about was “calories in vs. calories out.”


So. Not. The. Case.


Most fitness professional now know that it is not just about the number of calories. The kinds of calories, the combination of different foods, and the timing of meals play into a healthy and strong body.


Nutrition is not just about looks but about the body functioning properly.


Post-Workout Meal Timing

A post-workout meal should be eaten within 35-45 minutes of exercise for optimal recovery.


A post-workout meal should be eaten w/in 35-45 min. of exercise for optimal recovery #sweatpink Click To Tweet


Eating carbohydrates immediately after exercise replenishes glycogen storages (what the body uses for energy) 2x more than 2+ hours after exercise. Full glycogen stores can also increase future exercise intensity and duration.


Adding protein with carbs to the post workout meal maximizes the body’s ability to restore glycogen levels, reduce muscle damage, and repair muscles.


When we exercise, our body breaks down muscle. Muscles grow when they rest and recover. So optimizing recovery is a crucial part of exercise.


Post-Workout Protein and Carbohydrate Needs

2:1 or 3:1 carbs to protein is ideal for a post-workout meal.


Carbs get a bad rap but they are fuel for our muscles and brain. People should strive to eat carbohydrates with at least 3g of fiber (25-35g of fiber per day is idea – the average American eats about 11-13g of fiber).


Top choices for carbs:
Brown rice
High fiber cereals
Whole wheat bread.


Carbs = .5 – 1g per kg body weight is recommended for the post-workout meal

100 lbs = 23g – 45g
140 lbs = 32g – 64g
200 lbs = 45g – 91g


A combination of fast and slow digesting carbs will help to immediately replenish energy needs and aid in prolonged energy.


Fast-acting carbohydrates, or simple carbohydrates, are easy to digest and supply the body with energy very quickly. Simple carbs are mostly found in refined grain products, some fruits, and some dairy. You can also find them in high-sugar foods such as candy and soda – but these are not your ideal choice for fast-acting carbohydrates! Simple carbs can be a good option before a workout if you need a quick boost of energy.


Slow-digesting carbs – such as yams, wild and brown rice, beans, legumes, vegetables, red potatoes, oat bran, rolled oats, and whole-grain and whole-wheat breads – and are loaded with nutrients and fiber. These foods produce relatively slow increases in blood glucose.


Protein = 20-25g of protein is recommended for the post-workout meal

Note: Bodybuilders and older adults may eat a little more protein, but the benefits start to taper off after about 20-25g.


Sources of protein:
6 oz steak – 42 g
6 oz tuna – 40 g
3.5 oz chicken breast – 30g
Porkchop – 22g
1/2 cup cottage cheese – 15g
Drumstick -11g
1 cup yogurt – 8-12g (check label)
1 cup milk – 8g
1/4 cup almonds = 8g
Egg – 6g per egg
1 tsp PB – 4g


When, what, and why to eat a post-workout meal / The Fit Niche


Don’t Forget Breakfast

Break-the-FAST. Breakfast is meant to break the fast from sleeping all night and it should be eating within 60 minutes of waking up to jump start your metabolism.


And while we are talking about sleep – getting 7-9 hours is optimal for recovery, performance, and metabolism.


What you (+ your clients) need to be eating in a post-workout meal. #nutrition #fittips Click To Tweet


10 Post-Workout Meals + Breakfast Ideas

Chocolate Beet Protein Post Run Donuts

Chocolate Beet Protein Post-Run Donuts from Jenn at A Traveling Wife

Apple Sausage Breakfast Bake

Easy Apple Sausage Breakfast Bake from Lindsay at Cotter Crunch

Breakfast Banana Split

Breakfast Banana Split from Kat at Katalyst Health

Guac Toast with Fried Egg

Guacamole Toast with Fried Egg from Farrah at Fairy Burger

Quinoa Breakfast Scramble

Quinoa Breakfast Scramble from Jessica at Semi Sweet Tooth

Sweet Potato Kale Hash

Sweet Potato Kale Hash from Lee at Fit Foodie Finds

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito from Chrissy at Snacking in Sneakers

Muesli Bars

Whole Grain Muesli Bars from Sarah at The Fit Cookie

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread from Jill at Jill Conyers

pineapple upside down bites

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Bites from Kayla at Healthy Helper


Try these 10 tasty post-workout meals and breakfast ideas! #fitfam #fitness Click To Tweet


Let’s Chat

What do you typically eat after a workout?

What is your favorite breakfast food/recipe?

Trainers: Do you talk about the post-workout meal with clients?


photo credit: Turquoise and Palm