You’re training for a marathon and just finished a five-kilometre run; naturally, you’ve worked up an appetite and are wondering what you should eat the second you get home. Which is good, because New York City–based nutritionist Dara Godfrey tells us that it’s crucial to eat within an hour after any prolonged workout—no matter if your sweat session involved the aforementioned jogging, boxing, or a yoga flow.
So what exactly should you eat after working out? Generally speaking, Godfrey says to include a combination of carbohydrates and lean protein. “Protein is essential for any muscle bearing exercise to help build muscle,” she says. “Protein is fuel for your muscles (just like carbs are fuel for your brain).” What’s more, eating the right foods after exercising can increase the benefits of your sweat session—especially if you tailor your post-workout fuel to your fitness routine. With that in mind, we’ve compiled tips from nutritionists and trainers on their go-to foods after every kind of exercise.
“Eating the right food post yoga can increase the benefits of yoga,” says yoga instructor Alicia Kaprielian. “After practice, first and foremost hydrate with water, tea, or coconut water (nature’s Gatorade) to prevent dehydration, headaches, and muscle cramps. It is also beneficial to consume unrefined sugar because insulin aids in repairing muscles too.”
She suggests having oatmeal with a handful of blueberries, a drizzle of honey and a dash of cinnamon. Or try a green smoothie prepared with one to two bananas, half an apple, a handful of spinach, one to two dates, and one-and-a-half cups coconut milk. Kaprielian says that pitaya bowls are also a great option because they’re full of vitamins and minerals.
Deena Robertson, Co-Owner Modo Yoga LA recommends avocado toast with an egg on top and a side kale salad loaded with vegetables, chickpeas or nuts. “To supersize all of the health benefits you can also sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top,” she adds.
“Post-workout nutrition should be tailored to your body type and your goals,” says Ralph Esposito, a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist. “If your goals are to reduce body fat, your post-cardio nutrition should be about 15 to 25 grams of protein in the form of protein powder.”
Esposito prefers pea or vegetarian-based protein powder or a meal with poultry, fish, or egg. “Many people eat carbs after running, but if your goal is fat loss, then this can sabotage your efforts because you may be replenishing the sugar and fat you just worked so hard to deplete,” he says. “We call this glycogen deletion exercise, which speeds up fat loss.”
Pro tip from Esposito: Eat your protein before loading up on carbs, as this will prevent fat gain.
Barre or Low-Impact Cardio
“Protein bars a great go-to after a cardio workout,” says Vanessa Packer, founder of modelFIT. “I always reach for one because they are low in sugar and packed with protein to keep me full, plus have such a rich chocolate flavour.”
Executive chef Justin Cogley of acclaimed California restaurant Aubergine—who’s an avid runner, biker, and swimmer—explains that he usually reaches for something salty because after a great workout, we lose salt. “You can see it on your shirt,” he says. His go-to is Marcona almonds—or if he’s near a blender, he’ll make an almond, banana, avocado, and almond milk smoothie.
After a long day on the trails, Godfrey reaches for a combo of carbs and lean protein—her go-to foods are a hard-boiled egg and an apple, or a banana and one tablespoon of cashew or almond butter. (Added bonus: They’re easy to pack as a post-hike snack.)
Boxing or HIIT
After a boxing workout, Nike trainer and boxing coach Ashley Guarrasi usually fuels up with a protein shake within 30 minutes—she typically likes a combo of almond milk, banana, almond butter, vegan protein powder, and amino acids.
“This is beneficial post-workout because the amino acids help rebuild muscle tissue and are essential for recovery,” she says. “It also provides a quick source of protein to rebuild muscles that were broken down in the workout. Another go-to is scrambled eggs, a good source of protein; avocado, a healthy fat to refuel; and oatmeal or a side of toast for some carb.”
Leyon Azubuike, the founder and owner of GloveworxUSA, suggests drinking a glass of chocolate milk. “It has protein and carbohydrates, which help build muscle and get carbs back into your body to replenish what your muscles spent during the session,” he explains. “The result is a faster recovery from an intense workout and more energy to be unstoppable for the rest of the day.”
Azubuike also recommends a handful of mixed nuts or almonds along with chocolate milk. “It’s easy to binge after a hard workout so the focus is keeping your appetite in check,” he says.