Last updated on January 19th, 2021
Best Post-Workout Meals – Food to Eat After the Gym
What are the best post-workout meals to eat after the gym and which foods should they contain? Man! That’s a difficult question and it one that has a lot of people scratching their heads.
When people start puzzling over what food is best to eat after the gym they do so for a reason. It’s not a complicated one either.
All those thoughts about post-workout meals and the best food to put in them are due to a desire for better results. They want to heal faster after training and get bigger, stronger, muscles.
However, post-workout nutrition is complicated. There’s more to it than you may think, so get ready to feel some extra pieces of scalp under your fingernails. Got your gloves on? Smart move. Now we’re ready to proceed.
What Your Body Really Needs After a Visit to the Gym
Post-workout meals come in two types. There are real meals and snacks. They differ in size and snacks are generally quicker to prepare. However, both should always provide a similar nutritional value.
The best post-workout meals always provide plenty of protein and carbs. They may contain some fat as well, but it’s the protein and carbs that are important. Why? Because after a workout protein and carbs are the two nutrients your muscles need most.
So, the best post-workout meals provide protein and carbs. After the gym you need to eat food that provides both nutrients, that sounds simple enough. It’s not.
Although your post-workout muscles need protein and carbs, they also need to get them quite quickly. Ideally, you should be looking at eating no later than half an hour after you stop training.
Scientists have discovered there is a post-workout anabolic window and it’s best to eat your meals while it’s still open. [SOURCE]
Many experts believe the window starts to close 45 minutes after exercise. If you eat late post-workout meals they will still have value, but the benefits will not be so good.
So it’s not just the food you eat after the gym, it how soon you eat it as well. And there more, so don’t discard those gloves just yet.
After a workout, your body needs something else as well—adequate hydration. Let’s face it, if you’re doing it right, your workout should have you sweating like a pig. All that lost moisture needs to be replaced. [SOURCE]
Why the Best Post-Workout Meals Always Have Protein
So, you’ve been to the gym and given your muscles a good hammering. You know it because you can feel it, but what’s happening inside? There’s a reason why you feel tired and your muscles are sore.
Muscle tissue is nothing more than a lot of amino acids that have been stacked together to form protein. That’s what muscles are made of and the amino acids are the building blocks that construct it.
Your present muscle was built from the amino acids provided by previous meals. When you workout out, the muscle tissue is damaged. It sounds bad, but it’s only minor damage. More importantly, the damage is needed to encourage your body to repair the muscles and make them grow.
It gets the amino acids it needs from food and supplements and the need is greatest just after a workout. [SOURCE]
The best post-workout meals provide easily-assimilated protein. Your digestive organs reduce the protein to amino acids and use them to make the repairs.
Muscle tissue is created and repaired by a process known as protein synthesis. The food you eat after the gym provides the required amino acids in a timely manner.
The best post-workout meals will give you the protein needed to:
- Recover faster after your workouts
- Feel less muscle soreness and pain
- Attain strength gains
- Improve your muscle mass
Why the Best Post-Workout Meals Contain Carbs Too
When you work your muscles hard it breaks down muscle tissue. Yep! I know. We’ve covered that already. The thing is you need to have energy to work the muscles in the first place. That energy comes from food as well and the best source of energy is carbs.
When you eat foods that contain carbs your digestive organs extract the energy from the carbs and allow it to enter the blood. [SOURCE]
The energy enters the blood in the form of a simple sugar called glucose. The muscles put glucose to work via cellular respiration and extract its power.
Any excess glucose is converted to glycogen. Some of it is stored in the muscles, but the majority is housed in the liver. Later on, when the need arises, the body converts the glycogen back to glucose so it can be put to use. [SOURCE]
Hard exercise depletes glucose. It depletes glycogen too. So, after your workout, your muscles will be in desperate need of more glucose to replenish their energy stores.
The food you eat after the gym has to provide the muscles with their much-needed energy fix. The most efficient way it can do this is by providing plenty of carbs. Needless to say, the best post-workout meals do this.
A Post-Workout Meal With Fat or One Without It: Which Is Best?
You can eat food that contains fat after going to the gym, but there’s no particular reason why you should. Protein and carbs are must-have post-workout nutrients, but fat is not.
Although fat is often seen as an undesirable nutrient, it’s important to be aware your body needs it. Problems only arise if you eat too much fat. Especially too much saturated fat.
Fat has a calorie rating that’s more than double the calorie rating of protein and carbs. If you eat too much it becomes very easy to gain weight and much harder to lose it. Additionally, eating too much saturated fat raises cholesterol and is bad for the heart.
However, the body does require a modest amount of dietary fat [SOURCE]
Furthermore, it uses fat for some surprisingly important things:
- To provide certain vitamins and minerals
- Build cell membranes
- Blood clotting
- Muscle movement
One of the other reasons fat has such a bad rep is it takes a long time to digest. If your meal contains too much it may slow the absorption of protein and carbs.
The results of one study, involving a comparison between full-fat milk and skimmed milk suggest fat may boost protein synthesis. It’s only one study though. The findings are interesting, but not conclusive. [SOURCE]
A little dietary fat may or may not be a good addition to your pre-workout meals, but it’s unlikely to be the best. Fat is optional and it’s up to you, but protein and carbs are a must.
Post-Workout Meals: A Few Ideas
The best post-workout meals have to contain protein and carbs. They may contain a small amount of fat as well. In reality, a lot of food does contain some fat so it’s going to be pretty hard to avoid.
Most foods contain more than one macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat). They just tend to be categorized by the one they contain the highest amount. For instance, even lean beefsteak contains some fat, but people eat it because it’s so high in protein—plus they like the taste.
Speed of digestion is also a consideration when choosing food to eat after the gym. Beefsteak is not a good option. It takes to long to digest. It wouldn’t get the amino acids to your muscles on time.
Good Proteins for Your Post-Workout Meals (Per 100 g)
Good Carbs for Your Post-Workout Meals (Per 100 g)
Sources of Fat for Your Post-Workout Meals (Per 100 g)
Putting Together Good Post-Workout Meals
When you are trying to put together good workout meals, its best to include plenty of carbs. Protein comes second.
Non-bodybuilders should find a meal that provides three parts carbohydrate to one part protein should work well.
Bodybuilders will need more protein than that. The standard bodybuilding rule of thumb is to eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. That’s for a day. So how much you high-protein food you need to eat after the gym will depend on how many meals you eat per day.
It’s also important not to forget about the need for vitamins and minerals. If you are serious about providing your body with the best post-workout meals, you’ll bear this in mind. You’re not just feeding your muscles, you’re also feeding you.