Last updated on March 11th, 2019
Best Post Workout Snacks for After the Gym
If you are short of time after your workouts you may have to go with post-workout snacks in preference to post-workout meals. There’s nothing wrong with that sometimes the easy things work best.
Whether you take your nutrition in the form of post-workout meals or snacks is not so important. However, knowing what foods to eat after your workout is very important indeed.
The foods that you eat after your workout play a vital role in muscle recovery and growth. Whether you are snacking or sitting down to a full meal, you need to get it right.
This article is primarily about post-workout snacks, but it could be equally applicable to post-training meals. In this case, the main difference between a snack and a meal is likely to be the time it takes to prepare.
Post-workout snacks are quick and easy to make. Post-workout meals often require a little more time to prepare. In both cases, the only important thing is the nutritional value.
We’re talking muscle fuel here and regular fuel is not good enough. You need to go premium all the way.
The Importance of Correct Post-Workout Nutrition
Depending on the choices you make, your post-workout snacks can help move you forward or hold you back. You need to get it right.
Like everything else in your body, muscles require energy. Although your body can store energy, it originally gets it from food.
The food we eat releases glucose into our blood. The muscles use it for energy after first converting it to ATP. [SOURCE]
When the food provides more glucose than is needed, the liver converts the excess glucose to glycogen. It stores most of this within itself. The rest is stored in the muscles. When glucose runs low, the stores of glycogen are converted back to glucose and put to work. [SOURCE]
However, after any form of intense exercise or workout activity, the muscles’ are normally running on empty. The glycogen stores are practically gone.
Exercise hits the muscles hard in another way as well. All that intense physical activity breaks down muscle tissue.
By the end of your workout, your muscles are in a pretty bad way. Not only do they need to replace all that lost glycogen, they need to repair the damaged tissue too.
The only way the muscles can do these things is by using the energy and nutrients provided by food. Your post-workout snacks need to get both these things to them and they need to do it fast. [SOURCE]
It needs carbs to replace energy and protein for muscle repair. Your post-workout snacks will need to provide both. A little healthy fat can be good as well, but it’s not as vital as carbs and protein.
Post-Workout Meal Benefits
A good post-workout meal provides a number of benefits. You’ll be more aware of some of them than others because a lot is happening behind the scenes.
Three less obvious benefits are:
- Better protein synthesis
- Glycogen restoration
- Faster post-exercise recovery
When the foods you eat after your workout provide these benefits, you will feel it because your muscles will not feel so sore. Additionally, any soreness you do experience will only be short-lived.
You will also see the benefits, but that could take some time. Because good pre-workout snacks improve protein synthesis and faster recovery, they help your muscles grow. It’s going to be a while before you see that benefit in the mirror.
However, presuming you’re training correctly and your overall diet is okay, you should find you are getting stronger every week.
The Role of Carbs and Protein in Your Post-Workout Snacks
Bodybuilders often tend to become overly obsessed with protein, but it’s only one half of a winning team. Carbs are important too.
Due to differences in the way they work their muscles, bodybuilders require a greater amount of protein than other athletes. There’s no arguing with that.
Swimmers and runners, on the other hand, will likely require post-workout snacks that have less protein and more carbs.
No matter what the sport though, the foods you eat after your workout need to provide both important nutrients.
Protein is needed for protein synthesis. Carbs replenish glycogen. They are powerful allies that can get your muscle growth moving in the right direction.
Eating post-workout snacks or meal that contain both nutrients improves body composition and boosts physical strength. That’s a fact and research proves it. [SOURCE]
Try beginning with post-workout snacks that include carbs and protein in a 3:1 ratio. See how you go, don’t be afraid to experiment, and take it from there.
The Debatable Value of Fat in Post-Workout Snacks
Fat provides nine calories per gram. A gram of carbs or protein only provides four. Fat is a high-calorie food and you need to bear that in mind before adding it to your post-workout snacks.
Seriously, if the idea of growing bingo wings gets you in a flap you need to go steady with fat. Your heart will thank you for it too.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. The truth is your body needs it, just not in copious amounts.
You may have heard fat slows down the absorption of other nutrients. That’s true. It does. Fat is very hard to digest. It takes some time and when it gets mixed in with carbs and protein their absorption rates can take a hit.
That’s a good reason not to overdo it with fat, but it doesn’t mean you should avoid it entirely. If the foods you eat after your workout contain a little fat that should be fine.
In fact, it may even improve protein synthesis. A study comparing the abilities of full fat and skimmed milk certainly suggests this is so. When consumed after resistance exercise, the fat in the whole milk increased amino acid uptake, leading to improvements in protein synthesis. [SOURCE]
Tips on Timing Your Post-Workout Snacks
Just after training, there is a short window of time where “feeding your muscles” offers the greatest benefits. [SOURCE]
Most experts agree this window starts to close around 45 minutes after you cease training. So, eating your post-workout snacks around half-an-hour after your workout should help you get the optimum benefits.
A Few Good Foods Options for Your Post-Workout Snacks
The foods you include in your post-workout snacks provide your body with the nutrients it needs. The problem is, some foods release their nutrients too slowly to provide the muscles with the fast nourishment they need.
Below are some food suggestions to help you make some effective snacks to eat after your workout.
Some Post-Workout Snack Ideas
Here are some post-workout snack ideas:
- Peanut butter and beetroot sandwiches
- Crispbread with tuna and sweetcorn
- Bulgur wheat salad garnished with olive oil and vinegar
- Protein shake and mixed fruit smoothie
- Cottage cheese and pineapple on toast
- Greek yogurt with walnuts and berries or fruit
- Rye bread and turkey salad sandwich
Some Final Post-Workout Considerations
The foods you eat after a workout are important. They help you heal and grow. Whether you take your nourishment in the form of a post-workout meal or a snack is less important. It’s the nutrients that count, not the way you chose to take them.
However, it makes sense to always choose healthy food options. Especially when it comes to fats. Unsaturated fats are always preferable to the saturated kind.
Although it’s a bit of stretch to include advice on hydration in an article about the foods to eat after your workout, the subject is too important to omit. [SOURCE]
The body of the average adult is 55 to 60 percent water. During a workout, you lose a some of that water in sweat.
You also lose a lot of important minerals the body uses as electrolytes. Allowing yourself to become dehydrated during exercise can make you feel dizzy and ill. It can cause a lot of other problems too. Loss of electrolytes can cause lethargy, nausea and disrupt your heartbeat.
A good workout is hard on the body in a lot of ways, it’s going to need some nurturing afterward.
If your post-workout snack is suitably rich in vitamins and minerals you will probably only need to top up with water. Though, there is a lot to be said for sports drinks. Vitamin and mineral supplements are good too.
Want the bottom line? Be as hard on your body as you want during your workout, but be extra kind when you stop. Feed it well, make sure it’s adequately hydrated, then sit back and watch those muscles grow.