5 of the best post-exercise foods

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 13 Feb, 2022

When we exercise, our body needs fuel and calls on our glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, leaving these depleted post-exercise. Exercise also causes 'damage' to our muscles, which is what leads to adaptation over time. 'Adaptation' is a very good thing, as this is essentially our muscles becoming stronger and more efficient – but these changes require energy and nutrients!

We must replenish our glycogen after exercise to help our body recover and ensure it's ready for the next bout of exercise. Our muscles also need to repair to aid recovery and build increased fitness over time. Exercise recovery comes down to adequate nutrition – we must provide our body with the nutrients it needs to replenish glycogen while helping our muscles recover.

Step up carbs and protein

These are the two most important nutrients to consume after exercising. Carbohydrates are needed to replenish energy stores, while protein is essential for muscle recovery. Research shows that combining the two helps with the absorption and use of each nutrient, which improves exercise recovery. Aim to eat within the two hours post-exercise to ensure you recover most efficiently – as this can impact your future exercise performance.

5 great post-exercise food choices

Chicken, sweet potato and veg

Chicken, sweet potato and veg

This is a fantastic meal choice post-exercise! Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein, while sweet potatoes provide a healthy carb source. And including some vegetables will give you important vitamins and minerals to help your body function at its best.

Poached egg on toast

Poached egg on toast

Eggs are a fantastic source of complete protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids our body needs from our diet. Combining eggs with toast makes for a perfect protein and carb fuelled post-workout meal.

Quinoa with feta, fish or chicken

Quinoa with feta, fish or chicken

Quinoa is a very healthy choice of grain, it's rich in protein and carbohydrates making it an excellent all-rounder. Adding some additional protein from either feta, chicken or fish will make this a fantastic high protein post-workout meal.

Greek yogurt, berries and granola

Greek yogurt, berries and granola

Greek yogurt is a great protein source, containing more than other types of yogurts. Mix with granola and berries for added carbs and vitamins, and you have a tasty post-workout snack.

Chocolate milkshake

Chocolate milkshake

That's right, a simple chocolate milkshake has been shown to be great post-workout fuel! It has just the right blend of carbohydrates and protein, while also being quickly absorbed to aid faster recovery.

One final (important!) thing...

If your goal is to lose weight, just be mindful of calories and ensure any post-workout foods are factored into your allowance for the day. It's very easy to overcompensate after exercising and eat a large snack, which will wipe out any calorie deficit created by your workout.

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.