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Post-Workout Snack: What To Eat After A Workout, A Sports Nutritionist Explains

Feel excessively sore or tired after exercise? Not to worry! A sports nutritionist tells what you should eat and how the right post-workout snack can help to recover.

By Aditi Mudgal
28 Jul 2022

A 2021 Ipsos survey revealed that Indians spend an average of 7.9 hours per week doing physical exercise. It translates to roughly an hour per day of physical exercise, which is higher than the international average.

 

Whether you’re planning to lose or gain weight or want to build more muscle, having the right nutrition can help complement your exercise efforts. Sports and preventive nutritionist Shiny Surendran (Chennai) explains the importance of having a post-workout snack and which ones you can add to your diet to aid your body and maximise recovery efforts. If you’ve been wondering about including a post-workout snack and how it can complement your workout, keep reading.

 

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Why Are Post Workout Snacks Important?

Exercising requires your muscles to continually exert themselves, which uses glycogen. Glycogen is the body’s go-to fuel source, especially when indulging in high-intensity workouts. Since your muscles are depleted of glycogen at the end of the workout, it can lead to proteins in your muscles being broken down if the glycogen is not replenished.

 

After each workout, your body will begin to restore its glycogen reserves while repairing and restoring your muscles. Eating the right post-workout snack is crucial to ensure you don’t suffer excessive soreness or muscle damage. According to Shiny, not everyone may require post-workout snacks as it depends on the duration and intensity of the workout.

 

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“If you had a 45-to-60-minute intense strength training session in the gym or did a long run or intense cardio, a post-workout snack is recommended if your next major meal is more than one hour apart. It is not required if you are planning to just take a walk or a light yoga session for 30 minutes or less. It is best to have a properly balanced meal as soon as your workout session ends to improve recovery. For those seeking weight reduction, skipping snacks and eating a proper meal ideally within 30 minutes post-workout will be beneficial as it reduces total calorie consumption for the day,” says Shiny

 

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What Is a Good Post Workout Snack?

Depending on the type of workout you are doing, and when your next major meal is, the type of post-workout snack you can opt for will vary. Here are some categories you should look to cover if you are looking for an excellent post-workout snack or meal:

 

Protein

Consuming protein after your workout will aid in giving your body the required amino acids needed to repair and rebuild proteins in your muscles. Consuming the right amount of protein is also necessary to build new muscle, according to a 1997 study on protein intake and its effect on muscle protein.

 

Carbs

As previously mentioned, your body’s store of glycogen is depleted while working out, which needs to be replenished. Carbohydrates are required to help replenish these stores. Having both carbohydrates and protein as a post-workout snack can also maximise protein and glycogen synthesis, as stated in a 2010 study published in the National Library of Medicine (USA).

 

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Fluids

Rehydrating your body after a workout where you’ve lost fluids is critical. Ensuring your fluid levels are back to normal after a workout can help promote muscle flexibility and prevent excessive soreness. A 2019 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that the type of fluids you drink can also affect muscle strength recovery post exercising.

 

“Hydration and eating are both essential post-workout. Hydration with electrolytes is vital post-workout, especially if you are an athlete or have an intense training schedule. Some prefer a beverage, and some need a solid post-workout snack. Drinking a liquid or biting into a snack is a personal choice. There are few people whose appetite is suppressed after a workout, so a liquid shake with some nuts and seeds will be a better choice for them,” says Shiny.

 

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When Should You Eat Your Post Workout Snack?

A 2013 study published in the National Library of Medicine shows that nutrient timing is crucial in determining body composition. The study states that consuming carbohydrates immediately post-exercise is the best way to replenish glycogen stores in the body. Consuming a combination of proteins and carbohydrates within a 2-hour window after working out can also enhance glycogen and protein synthesis in the body.

 

When planning to eat a post-workout snack, it is best to do it within 30 minutes to an hour after working out if you are not planning to have a meal.

 

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Post-Workout Snack for Losing Weight: Recommended or Not?

According to Shiny, “a properly balanced meal as soon as you finish your workout is encouraged when you want to lose weight. So, it is best to plan your workouts accordingly. The best would be to get in an early morning workout and have breakfast immediately afterward.

 

You will be more consistent in your workouts as there are minimal distractions in the morning and you will feel energised and mentally alert throughout the day if you get in your workouts in the morning. It sets a great tone for the day.”

 

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Are Supplements Recommended?

According to Shiny, a significant increase in the rate of muscle protein synthesis requires adequate availability of all amino acid precursors. Free essential amino acids (EAAs) available for incorporation into protein are derived from muscle protein breakdown.

 

“Under normal conditions, about 70% of EAAs released by muscle protein breakdown are reincorporated into muscle protein. The efficiency of reincorporation of EAAs from protein breakdown back into muscle protein can only be increased to a limited extent.Hence, a dietary supplement of BCAAs alone cannot support an increased rate of muscle protein synthesis. The availability of the other EAAs will rapidly become rate limiting for accelerated protein synthesis. So, I do not recommend BCAAs. Instead, you can consume a wholesome protein-rich snack, meal, or shake,” says Shiny.

 

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Supplements As a Post-Workout Snack

“For the majority of the population, a post-workout supplement is not needed. These days it’s become a trend to consume a supplement because your friend, neighbour, or trainer has asked you to do so. A nutrition supplement, as the name suggests, is supposed to “supplement” the diet, not replace the diet or become the main goal.” says Shiny.

 

She goes on to say, “First, the diet needs to be addressed, and a solid foundation needs to be built. Supplements should be the icing on the cake or the roof of a house built on a solid foundation. Even if a supplement contains what it says on the label and is produced with high-quality control standards, it may not actually do what it says it does.

 

There are thousands of nutrition supplements on the market, and there are many claims that make these supplements sound attractive to athletes interested in performance, recovery, weight management, muscle building, etc. These potential benefits of supplements receive a lot of attention, but there are also risks associated with the use of nutrition supplements, and these risks receive much less attention.

 

Some supplements contain banned substances or can be contaminated during the manufacturing process. Some supplements will list ingredients on the label differently from how they would appear on the prohibited list, and there’s a high risk of counterfeit supplements, especially when purchased online. So, my advice would be to work with a registered dietitian to establish a healthy diet and ask for advice when taking supplements from qualified people.”

 

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Pre and Post-Workout Snack

Pre and post-workout snacks are usually advised for individuals with blood sugar fluctuations and those aiming for hypertrophy. It is not mandatory to take pre or post-workout snacks unless the timing of significant meals before and after a workout is 60 to 90 minutes apart.

 

Best Post-Workout Snacks

  • For light activities like basic stretching or mobility training, a post-workout snack is not needed.
  • For moderate activities like yoga or basic weight training, a handful of dry fruits and nuts or a fruit with a spoon of nut butter or vegetable sticks with a spoon of hummus can be consumed.
  • For intense workouts like long-distance running, HIIT, or heavy weight training, a chicken or paneer wrap or sandwich or a vegetable-loaded egg omelette or a protein shake or a chicken or egg and avocado salad can be consumed.

 

If you feel considerably hungry after your workout, here are some options you can try:

  • Greek yogurt with homemade granola: If you don’t have homemade granola, look for a store brand that has minimal preservatives, added flavours and sugars. Greek yogurt is protein-rich, and granola adds fibre and flavour.
  • Oatmeal: Oats have both protein and carbohydrates, which makes it the ideal food to have post-workout. You can cook it in milk to add more protein to your snack, and top it off with fruits for fibre.
  • Rice crackers with peanut butter: You can also try out other low-carb cracker substitutes. Rice crackers provide carbohydrates and fibre, whereas peanut butter has protein and fat.

 

When you’re wondering whether a post-workout snack is something you should be reaching for after a workout, it can really depend on your specific situation. Not everyone should be reaching for a snack pre or post-workout, and you might be one of them. Consider the type of exercise you are doing and your meal times to get a better idea about whether a post-workout snack is a good idea for you.

 

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FAQs

 

What Does Post Workout Mean?

Post workout refers to the time period immediately after exercising, whether that is walking, cycling, or any other physical activity.

 

Should You Eat Before or After a Workout?

Depending on your blood sugar levels and your weight loss or gain goals, the option for a pre-or post-workout snack is completely up to you. According to Shiny, a snack should not be consumed if you plan to have a meal up to 90 minutes before or after your workout.

 

What To Eat After Workout?

The intensity of your workout and your bodily requirements are crucial to consider when thinking about your post-workout snack. Some options that you can consider are:

  • Dry fruits and nuts
  • Fruit with nut butter
  • Vegetable sticks with hummus
  • Chicken/paneer wrap or sandwich
  • Vegetable omelette
  • Protein shake
  • Chicken/egg/avocado salad

 

How Much Protein Should Be Taken After a Workout?

The specific amount of protein consumed daily can depend on age, muscle mass, activity level, and overall health. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to protein intake. The Dietary Reference Intake, according to the National Institute of Health (USA), is 0.8g per kilogram of weight for a sedentary person. If you are planning for weight loss, it has been shown in a 2015 study in the National Library of Medicine that adding protein to 30 per cent of your daily diet can be beneficial for weight loss.

 

What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight?

Ideally, eating a meal post workout is better than having a snack if you plan to lose weight. If you are determined to have a snack, then make sure it’s filling enough that you don’t need to have a meal within the next few hours.

 

What to Eat After a Workout to Build Muscle?

Eating protein and replenishing your glycogen stores is crucial post-workout when you want to build muscle. Having a good combination of carbohydrates, protein and fluids will aid in muscle recovery and provide protein for muscle growth, so you post-workout snack should include these essential components.

 

What to Do After a Workout?

Stretching is recommended after a workout to ensure that your muscles can relax. You can also consider having a post-workout snack or meal to replenish your glycogen stores.

 

 

 

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