Physical activity uses a lot of energy. It is difficult for the body to recover if energy levels are not replenished within 15 to 30 minutes after finishing a workout. Eating even a little snack shortly 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.
What to eat after exercise and why
The following are examples of foods and compounds that help the body to absorb nutrients quickly and speed recovery.
According to researchTrusted Source 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
In fact, a 1 cup serving of low-fat kefir contains 9.2 gTrusted Source 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 effectiveTrusted Source 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.
Results of a study from 2017Trusted Source 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.
Omega-3 fatty acids
ResearchTrusted Source from the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids helps to boost the synthesis of muscle proteins and increase the size of muscle cells in healthy young and middle-aged adults.
Fatty fish, including salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna also contains high levels of the fatty acids, and about 6 ounces (oz) of tuna packed in water contains 41.6 gTrusted Source of protein and 5.4 gTrusted Source of fat.
Other evidence shows that oil drawn from fatty fish may help to reduce muscle soreness after resistance training. A study from 2016 found that consuming 6 g of fish oil every day for 1 week before beginning resistance exercise resulted in reduced muscle soreness.
Consuming carbohydrate-rich foods may be the best way to reduce the decreases in immunity that can occur after exercise.
Consuming carbohydrates as part of a post-workout snack also helps to promote glycogen storage.
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 gTrusted Source.
Also, quinoa has a low glycemic index, making it an excellent choice for people who regulate their blood sugar.
The nutrients and chemical compounds in herbal teas, especially yerba mate, may help the body process carbohydrates and protein effectively.
Authors of a studyTrusted Source from 2016 compared the effects of yerba mate to water after exercise. The participants who drank yerba mate recovered strength faster in the 24 hours that followed a workout.
In 2012, researchers found that mice administered yerba mate extract were able to metabolize more quickly and expend more energy than those who did not.
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.
The body loses water and electrolytesTrusted Source while sweating, so drinking water during and after a workout promotes performance and recovery.
Everybody varies in the amount of water they need, depending on the type of exercise, how much they sweat, how thirsty they are, as well as other factors.