If you train regularly, at the gym, with a PT or by yourself, the last thing you want is for your nutrition post training to be undoing all of your hard work. Similarly, if your goal is to bulk up and help build muscle tissue, what you eat immediately after your session is crucial to ensure you reach your training goals. Unfortunately, it is all too common to see a regular exerciser completely blow all their hard work by consuming far more calories after they train than they have actually burnt, often as a ‘reward’ for their efforts. So here is your ultimate guide to help you choose the best thing to eat after exercise, whether your goal is fat loss, optimal recovery and/or lean tissue gain.
For morning workouts
As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you eat in the morning, the better it is for your metabolism. This means that even though you may have been taught to wait an hour until you eat after training to optimise fat loss, it is actually better to eat straight away to fuel your depleted muscles and get your metabolism pumping. If your goal is fat loss, a protein rich breakfast with 1-2 serves of carbohydrates should fuel you for at least another 2-3 hours. Good options include a protein shake with fruit, eggs on wholegrain toast or Greek yoghurt with fruit and a couple of tablespoons of wholegrain cereal. If your goal is to gain lean tissue, aim for a 500-600 calorie meal which may include both a meal such as an omelette with brown rice or wholegrain toast as well as a protein shake with milk or fruit to boost your calorie, protein and carbohydrate intake to support muscle growth.
For afternoon workouts
Afternoon workout sessions can be tricky as on one hand you do not want to spoil your dinner by overeating after training but sometimes it can still be an hour or two until we eat our next meal. If you will be eating your evening meal within an hour of your session ending, and your goal is fat loss, you are fine to wait until dinner to eat. For hard sessions of 30 minutes or more, including at least ½ a cup of cooked carbohydrate such as sweet potato, corn, quinoa or brown rice at this meal will help to ensure you recover adequately before your next session. If it will be another hour or two until dinner, to avoid experiencing ravenous hunger an hour or so after your session, grab a light 150-200 calorie high protein snack with a small amount of carbs to keep your blood glucose levels regulated. Good options include a nut based snack bar, a piece of fruit with nuts or a couple of wholegrain crackers and a slice of cheese. On the other hand, if your goal is muscle gain, regardless of when you will next eat, adding another 300-400 calorie meal immediately post training will help to provide extra calories and carbs crucial for muscle growth. Good options include a shake with milk and/or fruit, a meal bar, brown rice with tuna or a chicken sandwich or wrap.
For evening workouts
Exercising after your evening meal has a number of metabolic benefits including helping to reduce post meal blood glucose levels but often we are then left with hunger right before bed. As not to undo all of your hard work by overeating at this meal, if you are peckish before bed and your goal is fat loss keep your snacks small and protein rich. Good options include a small serve of 10-20 nuts, a couple of crackers with a slice of cheese or a piece of fruit. On the other hand, if your goal is to gain muscle mass, another 200-300 calorie meal before bed will support weight gain. Try Greek yoghurt with fruit, a shake with milk or a couple of slices of toast with tuna or cottage cheese.