Physical activity uses a lot of energy. It may be difficult for the body to recover if energy levels are not replenished following a moderate or intense workout. Eating within two hours after exercising can help to restore energy levels.

In this article, we explore several components of a healthful post-workout snack and describe how they benefit the body.

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The following are examples of foods and compounds that help the body to absorb nutrients quickly and speed recovery.

Dairy protein

According to research published in 2017, as few as 9 grams (g) of milk protein may be enough to stimulate protein synthesis in the muscles, aiding in recovery after exercise.

Other than milk, dairy products rich in protein include:

  • Greek yogurt
  • ricotta cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • kefir

In fact, a 1 cup serving of low-fat kefir contains 9.2 g of high-quality protein. These proteins can repair new cells, especially those in the muscles. These proteins also contain all of the essential amino acids, which are only available through the diet.

In 2007, some researchers found that milk-based proteins are more effective than soy-based proteins at promoting the growth of muscle proteins after resistance exercise.

The researchers concluded that while both milk and soy proteins help a person to maintain and build muscle mass, milk proteins were more effective at supporting the quick growth of lean muscle mass.

Eggs

Results of a study from 2017 suggested that consuming whole eggs after resistance exercise resulted in more protein synthesis than consuming egg whites with the same protein content.

The researchers concluded that the nutrients in the yolk helped to stimulate the muscles more effectively.

Carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods may be the best way to reduce the decreases in immunity that can occur after intense exercise.

Consuming carbohydrates as part of a post-workout snack also helps to replenish glycogen stores. High-intensity strength training such as Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding can use up glycogen stored in the body.

In a 2022 review, researchers suggest eating 15 g of carbs in the first 3 hours after intense strength training. To maximize potential benefits, they recommend combining carbs with a protein source that provides 0.3 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.

Sweet potatoes, grains, and fruits can contain high levels of healthful carbohydrates, as can quinoa.

Quinoa is gluten-free, classified as a pseudocereal, and usually consumed as a grain. It is high in fiber and rich in protein, with 1 cup providing 8.14 g of protein.

Also, quinoa has a low glycemic index, making it an excellent choice for people who regulate their blood sugar.

Water

It is essential to drink plenty of water before, during, and after a workout. Staying hydrated ensures that the body gets the most benefit from exercise. And continuing to hydrate after finishing a workout can protect against dehydration.

Everybody varies in the amount of water they need, depending on the type of exercise, how much they sweat, how much water they get from foods like fruits and vegetables, as well as other factors.

According to research, athletes can maximize performance by being well-hydrated before starting their workout. To stay hydrated throughout the day, it is best to drink water even before a person notices they feel thirsty.

When playing sports such as tennis or football, rehydrating during breaks between play can help prevent dehydration.

The body loses both water and electrolytes while sweating. If a person is sweating heavily during exercise, electrolyte drinks can help replenish salt and other elecrolytes.

During exercise, the muscles use up stored glucose, called glycogen, and levels become depleted.

Endurance sports, such as running, use up more glycogen than resistance activities, such as weightlifting. Another effect of exercise is that the muscles develop small tears.

Getting the right nutritional balance after exercise restores energy levels and reduces fatigue, helping the body to repair muscles and build strength for future workouts.

Proteins, carbohydrates, and healthful fats are all essential for the body’s recovery.

Protein

Exercise supports muscle growth, but the body can only build upon existing muscles if they recover after each workout.

Consuming protein after exercise helps the muscles to heal and prevents the loss of lean mass. Lean mass contributes to a muscular and toned appearance.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are macronutrients that help the body to recharge and restore its fuel supply.

Anyone who exercises more than seven times a week should consume plenty of carbohydrates, as they quickly replenish glycogen levels.

What about fat?

Many people believe that consuming fat after exercising slows digestion and the absorption of nutrients. For some types of fat, this may be true.

However, there is little information about the post-workout effects of fat calories. It may be a good idea to limit fat intake after exercise, but low levels of fat are unlikely to inhibit recovery.

Consuming carbohydrates and proteins after exercising helps to encourage muscle protein production, and promote recovery with the best results.

Arrange to eat a snack within the first couple of hours after a workout. Also, remember to replace fluids by drinking water before, during, and after exercise.