How to Refuel After Your Workout with the Ideal Snack

Weirdly enough, sometimes exercise can make you ditch your diet. Even though diet and exercise are both helping you reach your wellness goals, if you have a great workout, you can think it’s OK to indulge in whatever sugary snack you like. However, this can throw off your progress, and actually have a negative impact on your wellbeing. Fitness expert Dean Anderson explains, ‘Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need, or choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can do the opposite of what you want—cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout food to refuel and repair your muscles.’ So what should go into your ideal post-workout meal or snack?


1. Calories: ‘Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal 50% of the calories you burned during your workout,’ Anderson advises. ‘So if you burn about 600 calories during your workout, try to eat 300 calories afterward. Don’t worry about undoing the calorie-burning benefits of your workout–that’s not how weight loss works. As long as you’re eating within your recommended calorie range (whether for weight loss or maintenance), you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals.’


2. Carbohydrates:Anderson asserts, ‘Roughly 60% of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace the muscle fuel (glycogen) you used up and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need more—around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised. If you have some favourite high-carb foods that are lacking in the whole grains and fibre that are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, this is a good time to have them! Your body can digest refined carbohydrates faster during your “refuelling window.”’


3. Protein: ‘While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack,’ Anderson notes. ‘This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25% of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that’s about 10-15 grams for most people.’


4. Fat:Anderson warns, ‘Fat doesn’t play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won’t help your weight control or fitness endeavours. Only 15% (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat—that’s less than 10 grams.’


If you’re struggling to think what the ideal post-workout meal or snack looks like, why not try a few of our suggestions to get you started?


  • Bread, a bagel, or an English muffin with cheese or peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Fruit juice with cheese
  • Yoghurt with fruit
  • Vegetable omelette with toast or roll
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk
  • Eggs and toast
  • Turkey, ham, chicken, or roast beef sandwich
  • Vegetable stir-fry with chicken, shrimp, edamame or tofu
  • Crackers with low fat cheese
  • Rice or popcorn cakes with nut butter
  • Smoothie (with milk, yoghurt, or added protein powder)
  • A protein or energy bar
  • A protein or energy shake
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch, and vegetables

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