What to Eat Post-Workout

This question comes from a member at Oakland Fitness Company:

What do you suggest for a post workout meal ?

This is a great question! Here are some simple guidelines to keep in mind when thinking how to refuel after a hard workout.

First, determine if you really need a post workout meal. When I refer to a post workout meal, I mean  an extra meal on top of your regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Post workout meals in addition to your three main meals are only really necessary for those who are doing high-intensity training, long duration workouts, or for those trying to gain muscle. Specifically, this could look like crossfit, body building, competitive training, long distance running, or playing sports like basketball. For lower intensity workouts, an extra meal may not be necessary.

Focus on protein and carbohydrates. Protein is important for rebuilding muscle and connective tissue, and carbohydrates will replenish glycogen stores. Glycogen is essentially stored energy/sugar, and if you’ve done a high intensity workout, you’ve most likely depleted these stores.

When choosing carbs, go for starchy ones like root vegetables/sweet potatoes. These are best for muscle glycogen and will aid in getting ready for your next training session.

Sweet potatoes cut using a spiralizer - one of my favorites!

Sweet potatoes cut using a spiralizer - one of my favorites!

Ideally, minimal fruit and fat. Fruit has plenty of fructose, which will often replenish liver glycogen before replenishing muscle glycogen. Of course, if fruit is your only option, then something would be better than nothing. Minimal fat would also be ideal, as fat can slow down stomach emptying and in this case, you want to get the nutrients to the muscles as quick as possible.

Timing is everything. Eat your post workout meal around 30 minutes after training. Then, eat your regular meal 60-90 minutes after that.

Some examples of easily digestible protein and glycogen replenishing carbs would be salmon and cubed sweet potatoes, chicken and mashed potatoes, or a low glycemic smoothie blended with 2 raw pastured eggs, or hard boiled eggs on the side.

If you’re just working out to maintain health and general fitness, pay attention to how you feel after your workouts, even if you don’t fall into one of the categories explained above. If you’re working out consistently, maybe 3-4 days a week, you may not need to add extra post workout fuel, however you may need to increase the carbohydrate content of your regular meals. Personally, I’ve found that after a tough workout, simply adding half a sweet potato to my normal breakfast was key in my ability to recover, stay satisfied until lunch, and also stay strong for my workouts later in the week.