Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand with getting in shape. Just dieting will help lower weight, but without exercise, the body is falling short of its full potential. When the two are in sync, the results are measurable and inspiring.

There’s no denying what the right fuel can do for the body during a workout. What’s consumed post-workout is just as important, but often overlooked. While exercising, muscles in the body use up the glycogen (stored carbohydrates) and proteins to power the workout.

Eating healthy carbs and proteins post-workout helps the body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis resulting in growth
  • Restore glycogen reserves
  • Enhance the body’s overall recovery

The main goal of this meal should be to supply the body with the right foods to aid in recovery and maximize the benefits of a workout. Eat within 45 minutes of finishing a workout to get the best results. Waiting longer can lead to lower absorption rates for those important glycogens.

Protein intake

Consuming protein after a workout gives the body amino acids used to repair and build new muscle tissue. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends consuming up to 0.23g of protein per pound of body weight after a workout, so a person weighing 175lbs. should eat about 40g of protein.

Here are a few after-workout proteins to consider:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Whey protein powder
  • Salmon fillet
  • Tuna
  • Chicken breast
  • Protein bar
  • Avocado
  • Nuts/nut butters or trail mix

Carb intake

The glycogen muscles store is the fuel for exercise. Consuming carbs after a workout helps replenish these stores. For endurance sports like running and swimming or people who workout twice a day, glycogen will release for longer periods of time and help sustain muscle energy.

For a really intense workout, a ratio of three carbs for every one protein is recommended to enhance glycogen storage and improve muscle-protein synthesis.

Some smart carbs include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables

Try these food combinations post-workout:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
  • An egg with avocado spread on whole-wheat toast
  • Grilled salmon with baked sweet potato
  • Tuna salad on whole grain bread or crackers
  • Smoothie with whey protein powder, banana and almonds
  • Cottage cheese with berries
  • Rice crackers and almond butter

Don’t forget to hydrate

Through all of this, water is key both before and after. During exercise, water and electrolytes are lost through sweat. Proper hydration helps the body recover and perform at its best.