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Best Post Workout Meals – Boost Your Gains By Eating The Right Food


Post-workout meals are extremely important to help your body recover and replenish your stores of energy. During exercise, your muscles will use the glycogen stored within them to produce energy. Additionally, muscle fibers will inflict microscopic damage that needs repairing.

The combination of the physiological changes that occur during workouts suggests that you need to pay more attention to your post workout meal.

In this article, we will cover what the best post workout meal looks like to help you optimize your gains.

The Best Post Workout Meal – What should you include?

Include protein-rich foods

During exercise, your muscle fibers will inevitably get broken down. The rate of the breakdown varies from one person to another. However, even well-trained athletes experience it.

While this might sound dangerous at first, it is the primary mechanism that drives muscle hypertrophy and physical strength.

To repair the damage inflicted on the muscles, the body needs to meet two conditions:
  • The hormonal stimulation of this process (e.g., human growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, thyroid hormone)
  • The availability of the building blocks to construct the muscle fibers (e.g., essential and non-essential amino acids)

Fortunately, the first process is physiological and requires no intervention from you as long as you don’t have any endocrine pathology (i.e., growth hormone deficiency).

The second condition, however, is entirely dependent on your dietary choices. If you are getting sufficient quantities of protein through your diet, muscle hypertrophy is inevitable.

Supplying your body with adequate amounts of protein provides it with the necessary amino acids (i.e., building blocks) to repair the damaged tissues and build bigger muscle fibers.

Experts recommend consuming 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) shortly after working out.

Not consuming sufficient amounts of protein will severely impact your gains since the muscles are in dire need of amino acids to start the process of tissue repair.


Replenish your stores of carbohydrates 

The glucose stored as glycogen gets depleted during exercise; therefore, you need to consume carbs to replenish your stores.

The rate of depletion varies depending on the activity. For instance, endurance sports consume glycogen faster than strength training.

Therefore, you may need to consume more carbs if you are into running, swimming, or cycling.

Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight optimizes the process of glycogen resynthesis.


Do not be afraid of fats

There is a common myth that eating fats after working out inhibits the absorption of nutrients. 

In reality, fats may slightly slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal; however, they do not reduce its benefits.

In one study, researchers found that ingesting a high-fat meal after working out does not interfere with glycogen synthesis.

Making sure that you include poly- and mono-unsaturated fatty acids in your diet is very important to optimize your workout.

In a 2018 study, researchers analyzed the effects of fish oil on post-exertional recovery. They found that taking omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).


Load up on antioxidants

Antioxidants assist your body to neutralize the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species, which wreak havoc on the vast majority of organs, including the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.

In a 2014 book titled ‘Antioxidants in Sport Nutrition’, the author, Manfred Lamprecht, who is a medical and exercise scientist at the Medical University of Graz, Austria, pointed out the importance of consuming antioxidants, especially after high-intensity exercise.

He concluded that “Moderate and timely limited antioxidant supplementation may be warranted in specific situations, for example, during periods of intensified training, during acute bouts of intense endurance exercise lasting several hours and in the early recovery period thereafter or during energy restriction/weight loss programs.”


Eat heart-friendly foods

Cardiac function is vitally important for athletes and everyone who works out regularly.

The relationship between the heart and exercise is reciprocal, which means that training your muscles will improve cardiac function while a healthy cardiovascular system optimizes your performance.

Here are some heart-friendly foods as part of the best post workout meal:
  • Hemp seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Safflower oil
  • Herring
  • Oysters
  • Mackerel 
  • Sardines 
  • Salmon
  • Cod liver oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu

Including these foods in your diet will reduce oxidative stress in the coronary artery, which improves myocardial irrigation, and subsequently, your physical performance next time you work out.


Food to include in your best post workout meal


Quinoa is a gluten-free cereal that is high in amino acids, such as cysteine, lysine, and methionine. These amino acids are involved in a variety of biochemical reactions after exercising.

Quinoa is the ideal option for post-workout meals since it increases energy levels, boosts metabolism, and aids in muscle hypertrophy.

This superfood can also help with weight loss in a range of ways, including appetite suppression.

Moreover, fiber creates a sensation of fullness, which means you will consume fewer calories than you normally do.

The fact that quinoa is a plant with an extremely low glycemic index is another element that reduces caloric intake.

2. Blueberries

Based on an article published in Nature, blueberries are one of the best antioxidants. They are rich in polyphenols that neutralize the negative effects of free radicals and oxidative stress within the cell. 

Blueberries also have vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals that assist with increasing your energy levels and resetting your metabolism.

3. Salmon

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are plentiful in salmon, as well as other kinds of fish.

The American Health Association recommends that people consume fatty fish like salmon at least 2 times per week.

The unsaturated triglycerides found in salmon enhance the production of triphosphate adenosine (ATP) and boost metabolism.


Takeaway message

Your post-workout meal is as important as what you eat before working out. Including the foods we listed above will help replenish your stores and boost recovery. 

In reality, you might have to do some experimenting before reaching the optimal combination of foods and proportions.

Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on the macros to include in your post-workout meal.

Written By

Jessica Redman - Head Coach and Founder of Work That, Trustee at CIMSPA

Jessica founded an online personal training platform called ‘Work That’ and was previously Co-founder of ‘GRL GYM’. She is currently on the CIMSPA board where she is aiming to help drive forward knowledge about the benefits exercise has on mental health. Jess believes in using exercise to help people feel good, relive pain and enjoy an active lifestyle.