Post Workout Meal: The What, When, and Why

If there’s one thing we all want to know, it’s how to get the most out of our workout sessions. Do we lift heavier weights? Do we run longer distances? Do we spend more or less time stretching? Do we stick with what we know, or switch up our regular routines? While answering these questions can be helpful, the answers to these questions are all fairly personal and based on what works best for you.

Universally, there is one factor that can improve results though. — Your workout nutrition.


Your pre workout meal and your post workout meal are combined to create your workout nutrition. Making sure that your body is fueled properly both before your workout so that you have energy to expel, and after your workout, to replenish your energy reserves, is vital to your workout success.

Why Do I Need A Post Workout Meal?

post workout meal

After any workout, and especially after a grueling workout, your energy reserves are depleted, and your muscles are torn and fatigued. Eating during this period of exhaustion may be the last thing on your mind, but it is exactly what your body needs.

During a workout your body loses necessary vitamins and minerals making your body the most receptive to nutrient replenishment during your period of post workout. You can restock your body with everything that it needs to repair itself, and grow stronger with a well timed, and evenly balanced post workout meal.

Your post workout meal is just as important as your pre workout meal and your workout itself. Most people experience one of two levels of hunger after their workouts. Either they feel like they could eat the entire contents of their refrigerators, or they don’t even want to look at food. Both of these options are counterproductive to muscle repair and growth.

What Should I Eat For My Post Workout Meal?

The contents of your post workout meal should include balanced portions of both proteins and carbohydrates. These two macronutrients will provide your body with the necessary building blocks to facilitate muscle glucose synthesis, and tissue regrowth and repair.



During your workout micro-tears occur in your muscles, whether you are focused on strength training or cardio training. These tears need to be nourished properly so that they can repair themselves to grow larger and stronger. Adding protein to your post workout meal is the best way to ensure that your muscle tissues are able to repair themselves.

While protein can be used as an energy source, and thus also as energy replenishment, the body most often breaks it down into amino acids that are then used to regulate hormone production, and to build and repair tissues within the body; including muscle tissues.


post workout meal

There are two different kinds of carbohydrates, and while you should steer clear of simple carbohydrates like: refined white grains, cereals, soda, fruit juice, and candy bars; complex carbohydrates like: whole grains, green vegetables, beans, and sweet potatoes are actually healthy energy sources.

Complex carbohydrates should be added to your post workout meal as a way to replenish your depleted energy sources. Thanks to their molecular makeup of long complex strains of sugar these types of carbs supply your body with slow burning energy, that is rapidly available upon consumption.

When Should I Eat My Post Workout Meal?

post workout meal

Recent studies suggest that eating a post workout meal is especially important for lifelong endurance athletes. It is believed that the muscle tissues of athletes, who have been training for an extended period of time, may have difficulties with the protein remodeling mechanism. The goal of the post workout meal in that case, is to increase the amount of protein available to the body to encourage protein synthesis.

Although professionals agree that the benefits of a post workout meal are invaluable, there is one aspect that many still debate — when a post workout meal should be eaten. The obvious answer is upon completion of your workout, but the debate focuses on whether or not there is an optimal time slot to fit this meal into.

Some people will tell you that you should eat your post workout meal within the first thirty minutes of completing your workout session, while others insist that you have a two hour nutrient replenishment window post workout to cool down, shower, and enjoy your food. There is no significant scientific data that will back up either of these statements.

What we do know for sure though, is that upon completion of a workout your body has vitamin, mineral, and energy deficiencies that need to be replenished. It stands to argue then that eating a healthy and well balanced post workout meal as soon as possible, has the potential for restoring these necessities more efficiently and effectively.

The Post Workout Meal Take-Away

post workout meal

A post workout meal that is balanced with protein, and carbohydrates eaten shortly after the completion of your workout is the optimal way to recharge your body and provide it with the nutrients it requires for recovery. While a post workout meal is encouraged, you should always be cognizant of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating. A good way to ensure that you aren’t eating too much is to portion out your meals ahead of time, so that you won’t be tempted to add more than you need to your plate. If you are still hungry after your pre-portioned amount, drink a full glass of water and wait thirty minutes; this allows your body the necessary time to determine if you are still hungry or if your food was simply not digested enough to fill you up yet.


Beelen, M., Burke, L., Gibala, M., & Van Loon, L. (2010, December). Nutritional strategies to promote postexercise recovery. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

Campbell, M., Walker, M., Trenell, M., Luzio, S., Dunseath, G., Tuner, D., . . . West, D. (2014, May). Metabolic implications when employing heavy pre- and post-exercise rapid-acting insulin reductions to prevent hypoglycaemia in type 1 diabetes patients: A randomised clinical trial. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

Doering, T., Reaburn, P., Phillips, S., & Jenkins, D. (2016, April). Postexercise Dietary Protein Strategies to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Repair and Remodeling in Masters Endurance Athletes: A Review. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from

Fujii, T., Matsuo, T., & Okamura, K. (2012, June). The effects of resistance exercise and post-exercise meal timing on the iron status in iron-deficient rats. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from


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