Post Workout Nutrition: Why it is Important to Eat Right after a Workout

Whether your workouts are aimed at losing those extra pounds or to gain more muscle mass, you must be well aware that eating the right foods is as important as doing the right workouts. But what many people don’t realise is that – when you eat it – can be just as critical.

An intense workout can leave you dehydrated, physically depleted, and mentally exhausted. Post-workout nutrition is aimed at refuelling, rehydrating and repairing or rebuilding the body. Vital nutrients need to be replenished, electrolyte balance needs to be restored, excessive inflammation must be soothed and the damaged muscle tissues need to be rebuilt stronger.

Replenishing Glycogen

Muscle glycogen is the main fuel source used during long sessions of aerobic exercise. Without adequate carbohydrate intake, these glycogen stores drop significantly after an intense workout session. This can affect subsequent performances if it isn’t replaced at the earliest.

The best way to quickly replenish muscle glycogen is to consume 1.5 g of high-glycemic carbohydrates per 1 kg of body weight immediately after exercise. If you delay the carbohydrate consumption by two hours or more, glycogen synthesis will be reduced by 50%. {Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hemmert MK, Ivy JL. Muscle glycogen utilization during prolonged strenuous exercise when fed carbohydrate. J Appl Physiol. 1986;61(1): 165-172.}

Soothing Excess Inflammation

The catabolic hormones that help to breakdown glycogen and fat for fuel during the workout remain high even after the exercise session and they continue to break down more muscle tissue. Recovery nutrition can put a stop to this catabolic cascade which otherwise continues for hours post-exercise contributing to muscle soreness and inflammation.

Including the right foods can make a world of difference. Researchers have found that tart cherry juice and ginger can help curb excessive inflammation and muscle soreness. The flavonoids and anthocyanins in tart cherries are responsible for suppressing inflammation while several chemical constituents in ginger, such as gingerols, paradols, and zingerone block the production of inflammatory compounds and inhibit enzymes that increase pain and inflammation in the body.

The Metabolic Basis for Muscle Growth

When we exercise, muscle tissue is damaged at a microlevel. In simple terms, when we workout, old weak muscle is broken down and then repaired, ultimately making us stronger, leaner, and more muscular.  The relationship between these two parameters (rate of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown) represents the metabolic basis for muscle growth.

Muscle protein synthesis increases slightly after resistance workouts, while protein breakdown increases dramatically. There is a lot more breaking-down than building-up. Protein synthesis is stimulated and protein breakdown is suppressed when you consume the right type of nutrients after exercise. Muscle hypertrophy {an increase in size of skeletal muscle} occurs when a positive protein balance can be established during recovery.

Repairing and Building

To repair and build muscle, especially after resistance training, you must refuel with high-protein foods immediately after the workout. An intake of 20 gms to 40 gms protein is sufficient to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise.

Eggs are a great choice. A large egg contains 6.3 grams of complete protein; it has a balanced amino acid profile that provides all the amino acids you need in your diet. Another optimal post-workout protein is whey because of its amino acid composition and the speed of amino acid release into the bloodstream.

It should also be noted that dietary protein consumed after exercise in excess of the rate at which it can be incorporated into tissue protein stimulates irreversible oxidation. {Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, et al. Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(1):161-168.}

Many bodybuilders focus too much on the protein intake and tend to overlook the importance of carbohydrates in building and repairing muscle. Carbohydrates can decrease muscle protein breakdown by stimulating insulin release.

Read More: What’s Inside an Egg? EGGS-actly What You Need To Lose Weight and Build Muscle

The “Window of Opportunity”

The 2 hour period following your workout is often referred to as the “window of opportunity” as during this phase, your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth, and muscle strength.

Though many studies suggest that protein synthesis persists for at least 48 hours after an intense workout it’s best to consume your recovery meal at the earliest opportunity.

Smoothies or protein shakes are the easiest and most convenient ways for a recovery meal. If you are looking for quick and easy ideas for post workout meals, try out these 7 delicious yogurt drink recipes.

Read More: EGGS-actly What You Should Eat: 7 Delicious Frittata Recipes
About Tilottama Bose 48 Articles
With a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition, Tilottama has carved a niche for herself in the Health Writing Industry. She is passionate about helping her readers make informed decisions about the food they eat. She believes in the healing power of food and in food as medicine. Tilottama is an editor and writer at