top of page

What To Eat After Exercise

Post-workout fuelling is important to help you improve recovery, decrease muscle soreness associated with exercise, increase your ability to grow muscle, improve bone mass, improve your body's ability to utilize fat, decrease chance of injury, and improve immune function - just to name a few.

Here are some very general nutrition tips on how to fuel after workouts/training sessions/games so that you can show up again and perform your best.


I like to call carbohydrates THE energy nutrient. Carbohydrates are the body & brain's main and preferred source of energy, making it arguably the most important nutrient for athletes. Carbohydrates we eat are broken down into a simple sugar, or glucose. Our body then converts this sugar and uses it as fuel right away, or converts it to a stored form of fuel called glycogen. This glycogen is stored in our muscles and liver. I like to call this our "fuel tank".

During exercise, training, and competition, the body will use up the carbohydrates we eat in the meals and snacks leading up to activity and once that's gone, it will dip into the fuel tank for more gas. The longer and harder you're working during training or competition, the more your body relies on your stored carbohydrate in your fuel tank to keep you energized and able to perform.

The only way to replenish these glycogen stores is to eat carbohydrates. If you don't replenish your fuel tanks (eating a low carbohydrate diet) you will experience poor performance and frequently feel tired and fatigued.

It is unfortunately common to see athletes chugging back a shaker cup with just protein powder and water. Although protein plays a very important role in the repairing of muscles, without adequate carbohydrates this recovery process is not very sufficient.


Protein is important to repair muscle tissue and reduce muscle breakdown after exercise. A common myth about protein is that you need to eat more post workout. This is not true. Muscle protein synthesis is at its peak within 3 hours after exercise and will stay elevated up to 72 hours, therefore, it is more important to consume enough protein throughout the whole day.


There is what you call a "recovery window" or "post workout window" where your body is primed to accept nutrients for recovery. This window is 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Although research shows that protein synthesis persists for another 72 hours after you exercise, it suggests that it is important to consume a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein within 2 hours. Think of it as your body working in overdrive during those 2 hours to kickstart that recovery process. It is important to provide it with fuel during this time to fully optimize our bodies ability to fill that fuel tank. Research also shows that delaying post workout nutrition by 2+ hours reduces the rate at which we can replenish our glycogen stores by as much as 50%.

Long story short, if you delay post workout nutrition, you are only delaying the recovery process.


My final nutrition tip is to make sure you are replenishing your body with enough fluids. All of our food fuel sources and vitamins & minerals rely on water to travel to and from our cells. Oxygen also travels through water into our muscle cells and carbon dioxide comes out. This exchange of fuel, oxygen, and waste happens all of the time, but it's amped up especially during sports (which is also why we breathe harder and faster).

So for an athlete, maintaining adequate hydration is absolutely essential to performing at your best.

Each athlete will have their own fluid recommendations based on a number of factors, but a quick calculation for your baseline fluid needs is to simply divide your weight in pounds by 2. This is the number of ounces of fluid you need each day before factoring in exercise. A registered dietitian can help you calculate your sweat rate to determine how much more fluid you require.

Athletes can check and monitor hydration at any point by checking their urine colour. A light yellow, like lemonade, is ideal. If it's darker, like apple juice, you're already dehydrated and need to drink more fluids. Also, keep in mind that clear urine isn't necessarily a good thing. Clear urine may be a sign your body isn't adequately absorbing water and you need more electrolytes.

What do I eat/drink?

Within 30 minutes it is important to consume some sort of snack to start that recovery process, and within 2 hours you should be consuming a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein. My best advice is to plan ahead and have a snack handy in your gym bag or locker so you aren't struggling to find something to eat after exercising. Water should be most athletes fluid of choice during and after exercise, unless moderate-hard exercise lasts longer than 60 minutes. In that case, a sports drink might be your best choice. Check out my blog post "Should I drink water or a sports drink?" to learn more.

A post workout smoothie is a fantastic option to re-fuel after exercise. It contains carbohydrates, protein, fluid, it works great for timing as it's easy to digest, and not to mention can contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support recovery!

Check out my smoothie recipes here.

Other food options you can have in your gym bag include (lunch bag with ice pack for refrigerated items*): greek yogurt parfait with berries and granola*, hard boiled eggs* and toast, PB and banana sandwich, trail mix with fresh fruit or dried fruit, apple slices with a greek yogurt* and PB dipping sauce, 1-2 cups chocolate milk*, turkey sandwich*.

Cheers! And happy training :D

Don't forget to like, comment and/or share if you think someone would find this helpful 💚


bottom of page