After your workout, don’t forget to fuel up

The fact is, everyone knows that nutrition is vital in helping us get healthy and reach our fitness goals. What’s more, essential nutrition involves pre- and post-workout “fuel,” if you will, in addition to the meals we eat through the day.

Post-workout refueling is important because high intensity workouts really fatigue our bodies. Following killer workouts we need proper refueling – nutrition, that is – to repair and grow muscles. So, without this all-important meal, we miss out on some very serious growth and gains!

Your Post-Workout Meal

When it comes to any great structure – like the body you are working for – we must have the right building blocks. For example, our main building blocks should consist of a combination of carbs and protein (for the purposes of this article, I won’t discuss anything else). This nutrient combination will dramatically help repair/grow your muscles while also replenishing stores of glucose that were depleted during your workout. Indeed, men and women benefit from post-workout refueling.

So, while we understand why protein is important post-workout to help repair and build muscle, what makes carb intake good? Because they are ideal post-workout, actually, because our body, in that stage, is like a calorie furnace – metabolism is jacked, making it the ideal time to eat carbs.

Also, carbs will help you replenish the energy you just spent and help you get ready for the remainder of the day (or even your next workout). And, a big carb dose after a workout can induce an insulin release, which occurs to help regulate blood sugar and causes our muscles to more readily absorb protein, giving you the protein you need.

Post-Workout Smoothie

A growing body of research indicates for maximal muscle growth, 0.8g to 1.2g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight is needed post-workout (Van Loon et al. 2000). If you’re concerned about fat gain, just stick to the lower end of this range.

And, obviously, we can’t forget about protein. Research also indicates that in order to maximize muscle gain post-workout we need around 0.2g to 0.4g of protein per kilogram of body weight (Levenhagen et al 2001). Now, for those looking for big gains, like you athletes out there, these numbers can be significantly higher. In fact, you should probably consider upping your intake to include at least 3-4g of leucine (Stark et al 2012) to maximize gains.

Finally, it’s important to note that you should consume this right after you’ve finished your workout, because it’s necessary to replenish muscles as quickly as possible (remember – calorie furnace!). Try to refuel within an hour, for sure.

One simple way to get this done is to add your flavored whey protein and dextrose (carbohydrate) into your blender with some ice (or other fruits or peanut butter – just remember that will count towards your carb and protein intake). Blend it up and it will make for a quick, effective post-workout drink/meal.

Wrapping up

In truth, when all is said and done we just simply want to get the most out of our workout. We put all of that time and energy into it so we want the best results possible, right? From carbohydrates to protein, remember to properly replenish your body after a killer workout so you can recover and grow.


Levenhagen DK, Gresham JD, Carlson MG, Maron DJ, Borel MJ, Flakoll PJ (2001) Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 280: 982-993.

Stark M, Lukaszuk J, Prawitz A, Salacinski A (2012) Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9: 54.

Van Loon LJ, Saris WH, Kruijshoop M, Wagenmakers AJ (2000) Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72: 106-111

Author Bio

Josh (M.S., Personal Trainer) is the founder of DIY Active: “Fit.Food.Life.” He enjoys blending the latest science with health practices to help you exercise smarter.

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