Post-Workout Foods: The Secret to Getting Bigger, Stronger and Faster | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Post-Workout Foods: The Secret to Getting Bigger, Stronger and Faster

March 16, 2012

Must See Nutrition Videos

Powerful post-workout foods may the one thing you need to take your athletic performance to the next level. Recovery nutrition is not complicated, but it's often ignored by busy athletes. Muscles do not get bigger, stronger and faster during your workout. All of those changes happen while you are recovering!

Proper post-exercise nutrition creates the perfect environment for adapting to training, enabling you to become bigger, stronger and faster than your competition. It also prevents fatigue and fatigue-induced injuries. And recovery nutrition will prepare you for bigger workloads, leading to greater gains.

After a tough workout, your muscles are damaged; your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores are low; and you are probably dehydrated. You can address all of these issues by eating the right foods at the right time. Your recovery meal or snack should include all of the following nutritional components: fluid, carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. The fluid hydrates you, while the carbohydrates in your food replace the carbs you used as fuel during your exercise. A meal or snack that includes protein will help repair damaged muscle cells and build new muscle. During exercise, electrolytes are lost through sweat and must be replaced. Electrolytes help the body balance its fluids, allowing the body to recover, build muscle and store carbohydrate.

Many people believe they need a fancy supplement to achieve a proper post-workout meal, but you can meet all of your nutritional needs with food alone (which is often a less expensive option!).

Consume your post-workout meal as soon as possible—definitely within one hour of completing exercise. Your body is primed to receive fuel immediately after exercise. The time frame is particularly important if you are planning on another training session within 24 hours, have just completed resistance training or are reducing your calories to lose weight. Not headed home right after your workout? Pack a snack so you don't miss the one-hour optimal fueling window.

The following foods will travel well in your duffel bag, so you can eat them on your way out of the gym:

  • 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • peanut butter (2 tbsp.) and banana sandwich
  • medium apple and 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • granola or energy bar with 10-20 grams of protein

If you have access to a refrigerator or cooler, try one of these delicious options:

  • 16 oz. chocolate or regular cow's milk
  • 16 oz. soy milk
  • 1/2 cup hummus with 1 cup crackers
  • turkey or tuna (3 oz.) sandwich
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • homemade smoothie with 16 oz. of milk and fruit
  • 1 cup of cereal with 16 oz. of milk

Without a proper post-workout meal, muscle repair and growth are delayed, leading to sub-optimal training adaptation, early fatigue during your workout and higher risk of injury or illness. You may need to invest some time packing up your post-exercise foods, but it's a worthwhile investment. Recovering with food can give you an edge!

Photo:  userealbutter.com

Katie Knappenberger, RD, ATC, is an assistant professor and athletic trainer at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Fla.). She earned her master's degree in nutrition, with a concentration in sports dietetics, from the University of Utah and her bachelor's degree in athletic training from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She is a member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association and the Sports Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Follow her on Twitter (@KatieRdATC) for sports nutrition tips and cutting-edge research updates.

Kate Knappenberger
- Kate Knappenberger, RD, CSSD, ATC, is an assistant professor and athletic trainer at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Fla.). She earned her master's degree in...
Kate Knappenberger
- Kate Knappenberger, RD, CSSD, ATC, is an assistant professor and athletic trainer at Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Fla.). She earned her master's degree in...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

5 'Good Foods' That Might Be Bad for You

For years, we have been told that healthy foods are those low in fat and sodium and high in fiber and protein. Evil can lurk, though, among what we...

5 Protein-Packed Recovery Shakes

5 'Healthy' Side Dishes That Are Worse Than French Fries

5 Ways Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

5 Healthy Foods That Got a Bad Rap

5 Ways to Fuel Your Early Morning Workout

How Undereating Can Make You Gain Weight

Terrible Toppings: The 5 Worst Things We Put on Food

Small Change, Big Difference: 5 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Fuel Up Fast With 4 Smoothies From the New York Giants

Tips for Healthy Weight Gain

10 Easy Ways to Eat Real Food

How to Deal With Your Sugar Cravings

5 Non-Boring Ways To Eat Chicken

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

The Case for Red Meat

Vegetarian Athlete Tips: Olympic Swimmer Kate Ziegler

Why You Need Dietary Fiber

5 Foods That Are Stunningly High in Sodium

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Load Up on These Foods at Your Backyard Barbecue

How to Eat Organic Without Breaking the Bank

Healthy Makeovers for 3 Classic Meals

The Boston Cannons'

You Should Eat the Peel of These 12 Fruits and Vegetables

5 Delicious Ways to Make Junk Food Less Junky

9 Athlete-Approved Peanut Butter Sandwiches

The Cheat Meal Day: Why It's Not So Smart

How Friends and Family Affect Your Food Choices

3 Nutrition Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make and How to Fix Them

7 Foods That Are Ruining Your Workouts

Living Near Fast Food Could Increase Your Odds of Obesity

The Best Foods for Digestive Health

A Sneaky Food Additive Athletes Should Avoid

3 Fruits and 3 Vegetables Athletes Must Eat

5 Nutritional Power Combos for Athletes

STUDY: Eat More Fruits and Veggies, Live (Almost) Forever

Diet Changes: 5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Plan

Where the Paleo Diet Falls Short

Spice Up Your Healthy Cooking With These Lively Combos

Healthy (and Unhealthy) BBQ Ideas For Athletes

6 Eating Mistakes That Undo Your Workouts

Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?

10 Athlete-Approved, High-Protein Healthy Cereals

4 'Bad Foods' That Might be Good for You

11 Food Services That Deliver Ready-Made Nutritious Meals

The Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) Ways to Eat Chicken

12 Foods Every Athlete Should Eat

The 6 Worst Foods for Athletes