Step 3: The best food to eat after workout
What you eat after your workout determines how well your body recovers from said sweat session, as well as what kind of physical progress you’ll see.
We go into a lot more detail here but generally, if you did a short run or a brisk walk, you don’t really need to replenish in any additional way, other than your regular meals, Skolnik said. If you do a cardio routine (i.e. run, bike, swim) for more than 60 minutes, eat 30 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein, our nutritionists advised.
What to eat after a workout matters the most after strength training. Here, you want to think about 20-25 grams of high-quality protein and 10 grams of carbs post-weightlifting.
Your muscles are more open to repairing and rebuilding right after exercise, and they need that protein to rebuild your muscle fibers back bigger and stronger. However, as long as you get enough protein in 24 hours, you’ll still gain the benefits, Skolnik said.
Speaking of protein, it’s often a hot topic and a much-used supplement among avid exercisers. But if you have some of the macronutrient every meal — roughly 20 grams or 3 to 4 ounces — you’re likely getting enough, Skolnik advised.
She does mention that protein powders provide a convenient way to reach your daily quota, though. For reference, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight.
Here are a few other nutritional details to keep in mind:
1. Look for a quality protein powder.
If you do decide to have a protein powder, look for one with a third-party stamp of approval, like the NSF. You also want one that has leucine in it, an amino acid that helps stimulate protein synthesis, Skolnik said. Whey, egg, and soy proteins all have this but other plant-based protein powders may add it in, too.
Naked Whey Protein is third-party tested and has just one ingredient sourced from small dairy farms that mixes well with any shake — and it’s tasty.
Vega Sport Plant-Based Protein Powder is the best tasting, most effective plant-based powder you can find, with a wide array of flavors and whopping 30 grams of protein.
2. Start taking creatine supplements.
Despite the vast majority of workout supplements being snake oil or downright dangerous, creatine supplementation is proven to actually improve your workout performance — everything from sprinting power to strength — and help you shed fat and build lean body mass.
Studies show that supplementing with creatine, which is a natural substance found in our muscle cells that helps them produce the energy our body runs on, is safe both short and long-term (up to five years).
Look for a supplement that’s 100% creatine monohydrate, like Optimum Nutrition, below. Our experts advise starting with 20 grams of creatine monohydrate (5g, four times a day) for seven days, then moving down into a maintenance dose of 2-5 grams per day.
3. Consider drinking more tart cherry juice.
Research suggests that tart cherry juice can assist in muscle recovery. Skolnik said the polyphenols may help fight off muscle soreness as they reduce inflammation and provide antioxidants.
The juice also has natural melatonin, which can help you sleep (this also aids in recovery, too, she said).
4. Eat more Vitamin C-rich foods.
Skolnik suggested foods like oranges, bell peppers, and broccoli, as they all contain vitamin C, a nutrient that can help with tissue repair.
5. Stay hydrated.
Water should be your best friend, considering every cell in the body needs it to function, Skolnik added. You also need water for temperature regulation and hydration contributes to blood volume, transporting nutrients to and waste away from tissues and cells, and it allows for blood pressure regulation.
Without water, the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to allow for oxygen to get to the working muscles. In other words, dehydration makes you feel more tired even when doing the same amount of work. So, grab another sip of that H2O.
And if you ever do cardio for more than 90 minutes, be sure you replenish your electrolytes. Vellers told us that she has a 64-ounce water bottle she aims to finish every day to keep up her hydration.
The CamelBak Chute Mag Water Bottle is a budget-friendly option that’s durable and easy to use.
NUUN is a popular product among the endurance set. It’s standard offering comes in tablet form, but the endurance formula is a powder.