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The Optimal Post Exercise Meal

By Pam Evans, MS RD


Whether you workout at a gym, or run, or exercise at home, you need food to help you recover and to give you energy when you are done.


Questions always arise about the best way to eat after exercise for maximal recovery. It is most important to recognize that what you eat on a day to day basis is still the most critical for overall health and vitality.


It is ideal to eat soon after exercise, whether it’s a planned snack or a meal. You will make the most out of the optimal 45 minute post-exercise window of opportunity by mixing the right proportions of carbohydrates and proteins.


Carbohydrates will help restore the glycogen stores in your body. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, which is primarily what your muscles use for energy during exercise. Protein helps to rebuild the muscle that has been broken down during the exercise. The sooner you can get these nutrients into your body after exercise, the more efficient the absorption and the better recovery for your muscles.


Some people have little hunger after exercising, but remember it does not need to be a whole plate of food. It can be a small planned snack. The following are examples of good post workout snacks:

1. Greek yogurt or other low-fat/low sugar yogurt
2. 1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter with 5 whole grain, high figer crackers
3. 1 ounce low-fat cheese melted on ½ whole wheat English muffin
4. ½ cup high fiber cereal with nonfat milk
5. 5 whole grain, high fiber crackers and a piece of low-fat string cheese
6. ½ turkey sandwich on toasted whole grain bread


Beware of making the mistake of rewarding yourself with food because you exercised. Stay consistent with healthy choices in appropriate portions to drive maximum benefits from your exercise, optimize your health and maintain your weight goal.