We often hear about post-workout meals and how important they are in doing so. But what does that mean? What’s the best post workout meal for weight loss and muscle gain?
A post-workout meal is simply a nutrition-dense meal that helps your body recover. It consists of food items rich in proteins, carbs, minerals and vitamins.
The importance of post-workout meal
Your workouts, cardio and strength training, consume energy. And when you are exercising, your muscles use up their glycogen and break down the proteins.
You create micro-tears in your muscle tissue during each workout. The breakdown is what helps your muscles rebuild themselves bigger and stronger. But in order for your muscles to do that, you need to supply them with certain macronutrients—namely protein and complex carbohydrates.
Protein after a workout stimulates muscle growth by increasing muscle protein synthesis and slowing down muscle breakdown.
Ensuring there are carbohydrates in your post workout meal also will allow your body to replenish the glycogen stores, which is essential to improve performance.
Foods for the best-post workout meals
It’s important to nourish your muscles after a tough training session. What you eat after a workout can help to optimize your recovery, maximize performance in your next workout and help you reach your fitness goals.
The best way to build lean muscle mass and increase fat loss, is to fuel your body with the right foods. Use combinations of different food sources to help you reach your goals.
While it’s important to eat protein regularly throughout the day, it’s especially important to consume adequate protein after your workout.
Protein sources include:
- Lean poultry, meat and fish (red meat, chicken, turkey)
- Eggs (whole eggs and egg whites)
- Unsweetened Greek yogurt
- Protein powder
Carbohydrates produce energy, fueling the body. They also assist in the repair and recovery phase.
Some of the best carbohydrate-rich foods for muscle recovery include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown or white rice
- Bananas and other whole fruits
- Oats and quinoa
Not all fats are created equal. Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and coconut oil, when included in pre and post-workout diet, provide you adequate energy for strength training.
Don’t neglect your pre-workout meal (1–2 hours before the workout)
Think of your pre-workout meal as your energy booster. You need to fuel up a bit before your exercise session.
Ideally, your pre-workout meal is a mixture of carbohydrates and proteins so that it can provide more sustained energy levels and prevent muscle breakdown.
- Grilled Chicken, broccoli and sweet potato
- Whole grain bread and boiled eggs
- An apple with almond butter or a small handful of nuts
- Any whole piece of fruit — Fruits provide the best source of simple carbohydrates before a workout. Bananas are a popular choice, as they contain potassium as well as simple carbohydrates.
- 1/2 cup oatmeal with berries
- Egg muffins – provide you with plenty of protein. Add a slice of whole grain bread for toast.
Your post-workout meal
During exercise, muscle tissues break down. You have to replenish your body by supplying it with nutrients, which will help to repair muscles and with muscle soreness.
Make sure to eat a good mix of macronutrients to not let your workout go to waste.
- Salmon (or any protein) with Sweet Potato
- Grilled chicken (or any lean protein) with roasted vegetables.
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds.
- Steak and sweet potato
- Chicken and Broccoli Salad
- Grilled skinless chicken breast and brown rice
- Hard-boiled eggs and berries
Prioritizing protein in your pre-workout meal and post-workout diet are definitely important for maintaining muscle health, building muscle mass and increasing fat loss.
Two of my favorites to help with weight loss and building muscle
Greek yogurt, granola and berries
Greek yogurt is high in protein. If you are buying store-bought granola read the ingredients and opt for versions with limited added sugar and oil. Top with fresh fruits or frozen (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries) which are low calorie, low carb and rich in antioxidants.
Combine your favorite ingredients with protein powder to create protein shakes for muscle building.
Blend the following ingredients together to create a custom-made protein smoothie:
- 1 cup water (or you can use almond or plant milk)
- 1 scoop of protein powder (my favorite is Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein in French Vanilla. It’s a great base when adding other ingredients.)
- 1/4 cup of fruit OR 1 teaspoon of nut butter
- A handful of ice
- Optional (add 1/2 cup spinach)
Use this basic protein shake recipe but add ingredients of your choice based on your taste preferences.
Tips to maximize post workout nutrition
Eat more than protein
It’s true that protein is a building block for muscles, but an ideal recovery meal should have a combination of macronutrients.
Keep it simple
Post-workout nutrition does not need to be complicated. For the best results, choose easy combinations of items you eat already. If you are busy or running short on time, pick up a rotisserie chicken and pair that with some rice or potatoes and a vegetable.
Watch your portion sizes
It’s important not to overestimate how much “extra” food you “earned” from working out, especially if weight loss is one of your goals.
For example, if you burn 300 calories, please do not believe that you can eat an extra treat or pay less attention to your portion sizes. This can easily snowball and before you know it, you have eaten more than you burned during your workout.
Hydration is essential
Water is the key to so many things including weight loss. Your target should be to drink half your body weight in ounces.
If plain water is not your thing, infuse water with some fruit and/or vegetables.
If your workouts last longer than 60 minutes, you might need a sports drink as opposed to plain water. My favorite is Powerade Zero, which has less sugar than a regular Powerade or Gatorade.
It is designed to hydrate while also providing the body with electrolytes (such as potassium for regulating heart rhythm) lost from sweating.
Skip the alcohol
Alcohol in moderation is fine, but be mindful that alcohol intake has been shown to accelerate post-exercise muscle loss by up to 40 percent. It also potentially interferes with glycogen replenishment.
What is the best time for a post workout meal?
The best post-workout meal timing is within 15-30 minutes after your workout. If that is not possible, ensure that you eat within 60 minutes.
The best post workout meal for weight loss and muscle gain is one that is made up of complex carbs, protein and healthy fats. There’s no need to make things complicated.
Managing your post-workout nutrition will help you achieve your fitness goals better and faster while keeping your body efficient and disease-free in the long run.