When you constantly put in hard work at the gym you'll do anything to make sure you're maximizing your recovery... Right? Well, we hope you are because the better your workout recovery is the better your results are. Aside from good sleep, managing stress levels, and following a healthy diet, you want to make sure that you're nailing your post-workout nutrition.
What you eat post-exercise can make a difference in your recovery. So, try not to get tempted by rewarding yourself to whatever foods you like best. Instead, be mindful about what you eat because the wrong post-workout meal can undo all the hard work you put in! Making sure you pick the right foods to eat after your workout can help reduce muscle soreness for quicker recovery, replenish glycogen stores to effectively build muscle, and even improve your immune system.
The foods you eat after your workouts are what prepare you for your future workouts, so choose wisely! So, what exactly should you eat after an intense sweaty workout sesh? We'll tell you what you need to know to make sure you're refueling your muscles properly for better muscle-building and weight loss results!
How to refuel post-workout to maximize results
If you want to avoid having sore muscles for more than a day and ensure that your muscles are ready to perform at their highest capability for your next workout, then you need to focus on refueling with two main macronutrients: carbohydrates and protein.
You shouldn't leave healthy fats behind, but the reason you want to focus on these two macronutrients is because they can be easily digested, speed up nutrient absorption, and are the best at replenishing your depleted muscle glycogen stores. It's also been shown that carbohydrates with protein after high-intensity exercise increases muscle protein synthesis which is essential for building muscle. 
Post-workout foods to add to your grocery list
As you can see, what you eat after a workout is important, but what exactly should you be eating?
Here are 7 of the best foods you should include in your pantry or fridge for a handy post-workout meal or post-workout snack!
Refuel with a good nutrient-dense carb like bananas! Bananas are probably one of the best foods to eat after a workout due to the high potassium content and being a good source of magnesium - two macro minerals known for helping the muscles relax which will alleviate any muscle cramps and soreness. They're also easily digestible and can help spike your insulin just enough to drive protein into your muscles to stimulate rebuilding and growth.
You can enjoy it on its own, add some peanut butter, or throw it into a post-workout shake!
Another good fruit to add to your grocery list are berries! Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries contain essential antioxidants, one of them being anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are flavonoids found on the skin of berries and are linked to enhancing blood flow and reducing muscle inflammation after high-intensity exercise. They also act as a fast-acting carb that can quickly replenish glycogen levels for better muscle repair.
Have a handful of your favorite berries after your workout or create a post-workout snack with them by adding a protein source, like protein powder, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese.
Don't reach for simple bad carbs to refuel after your workout, aside from berries and bananas, reach for starchy carbs, specifically complex carbohydrates. When you pair a complex carb with protein, it helps the body absorb and digest the protein faster. Complex carbs are also usually nutrient-dense, containing vitamins and minerals that are essential for keeping your body healthy and muscles strong!
What are clean starches to include in your next grocery haul?
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat toast
- Whole grain pasta
And don't forget to add a protein source!
High-quality protein sources
During high-intensity exercise, your muscles begin to break down protein in your body in order to repair the micro-tears your muscle tissues suffered during your workout. Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are necessary to repair that damage, this is why it's common for lifters to drink BCAA's during or after training. Aside from drinking BCAA's to help enhance recovery, add a clean source of protein to your post-workout meal or snack.
What is a clean protein source anyways?
It refers to being a complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. The great thing is it's pretty easy to find good sources of protein that contain all essential amino acids - whole foods! Animal-based foods, seafood, and some plant-based foods (like quinoa) are the best options, but a protein powder supplement is also a good option, just make sure it's a complete protein and has enough grams of protein per scoop!
Here are some of the best protein options for you to try after your workout:
- Grass-fed beef
- Cottage cheese
This is technically not something you can eat... But it's probably the most important thing you can do after a workout - rehydrate!! Replenishing the fluids you lost sweating is just as important as your post-workout meal, in fact, you should probably reach for your water bottle first. But, if you really worked up a sweat, or worked out outdoors in the heat, then consider taking electrolytes to replenish all the sweat you lost!
The average amount of sweat lost during exercise is about 0.5-2 liters per hour, anything more than that can significantly decrease your exercise performance and can even lead to heat exhaustion. So, if you're working out hard or in a hot environment add some electrolytes in your water to make sure you're properly hydrated. For those who don't know, electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, that contain electrical charges distributed through your bodily fluids. Aside from keeping you hydrated, they help to balance the amount of water and other fluids in your body which can help support muscle contractions and reduce muscle weakness and spasms. Essentially, they help your muscles relax which is what they need after an intense sweaty training session!
If you want to add electrolytes into your workout routine, look for a low-sugar option. There are a lot of sports drinks that contain electrolytes, but oftentimes are extremely high in sugar. So, read the nutrition label, and make sure that you're only getting the ingredients you need.
You should know this by now, but don't forget to eat your veggies - especially your greens! Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula, and more, are packed with nutrients that are essential for recovery. Our personal favorite is spinach. Let us tell you why...
Spinach contains a whopping 5 grams of protein per cup, vitamins A,C,K1, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Simply adding a cup of spinach to your protein shake, eggs, or salads can add an extra 5 grams of protein while giving your body 3 key electrolytes to help with hydration. Don't sleep on this leafy green!
If spinach is not your favorite leafy green, then opt for your favorite, either way, they're still packed with nutrients your body needs!
Your main focus should be on whole foods... But when you're short on time having a protein powder, like 373 Lab's Whey Protein Isolate, can come in handy! You can drink protein powder by simply mixing it with your favorite liquid beverage, but we suggest making a heft protein shake to really give your body everything it needs to recover.
First, you have to find the best protein powder for you. Once you find the perfect one, grab your favorite healthy ingredients and make a shake! If you really want to maximize your recovery then include some of the ingredients above like spinach, berries, or a banana. A few other good nutrient-dense options are ground flaxseeds, nut butter, and hemp seeds.
Do you need to time your post-workout meal?
The anabolic window is something that's been debated time and time again in the fitness world. For those who don't know, the anabolic window refers to a short period of time in which blood flow is increased to help deliver nutrients efficiently... the catch? This window only lasts 30-60 minutes. Unless you packed your protein powder with you, you're going to need to rush home and whip up your post-workout meal fast!
The thing is, there is no conclusive research to actually back it up! For most, waiting until your next meal is just fine. If you have a nutritious meal a few hours before training then the benefits from that meal will still apply even after your training, making it less crucial to hit that one-hour window of opportunity. However, if you work out on an empty stomach, you should time your meals so they shortly following your workout!
To summarize, what you eat after a workout is important for better recovery and to ensure your performance doesn't decline for your next workout! The last thing you should do is eat a high-fat, sugar-filled, and nutrient-poor meal. Focus on whole foods, and try to incorporate the recovery foods listed above to help support proper recovery. And if you want to take your recovery to the next level then don't forget to add include 373 Lab's BCAA's and Whey Protein Powder to your supplement pantry 😉