Building muscle involves lifting weights and consuming protein. With that in mind, one of the most important meals is the post-workout meal.
But what should you eat after a workout to build muscle? When is the best time for post-workout nutrition? I have the answers to your questions.
In this article, you’ll learn about the benefits of post-workout meals and what to eat after a workout to build muscle.
The importance of a post-workout meal
Whether you eat a post-workout snack or a larger meal, these foods can be incredibly beneficial after exercising. Here’s a look at the main benefits of eating after a workout.
Increases protein synthesis
One of the main benefits of eating after working out is improving muscle protein synthesis. As strange as it sounds, you actually tear down your muscle tissue while lifting weights.
It’s what happens after you lift weights that leads to real muscle growth. This time is when you want to consume protein as part of your post-workout nutrition plan. Eating protein-rich foods repairs your damaged muscle tissue, resulting in larger overall muscles.
Making it easier to recover
Another important factor after a workout is recovery. Proper recovery can mean the difference between spending days feeling sore or recovering and getting bigger while you’re out of the gym.
Not focusing on the importance of post-workout nutrition makes it take longer to build adequate muscles.
Fuels your overall performance
Building muscle by working out takes a lot of energy. Fortunately, a good post-workout meal gives you the energy to tackle the rest of your day or night after working out.
Four components of post-workout dishes or beverages
Let’s now break down what to look for in a meal to help with post-workout recovery. Here’s how protein, carbs, and fat help you recover after exercising.
If you want to build muscle, your body needs protein. Fortunately, there are many ways to consume high-quality protein.
Some people prefer to build muscle protein by eating meats, vegetables, and other protein-rich foods. You can also repair your muscles after an intense workout by drinking beverages containing protein powder.
While eating enough protein is important, consuming carbohydrates is imperative for energy purposes. That’s why it’s good to find snacks that contain a combination of carbs and protein.
During exercise, your body uses its glycogen stores for energy. Think of this fuel as you would like gasoline for an automobile. Eventually, driving a vehicle will lead it to run out of gas. The same rule applies to the glycogen stores in your body.
Consuming carbs after exercise helps to replenish energy stores and rebuild glycogen levels.
It’s understandable to assume that eating fat after working out is a bad thing. However, that’s not entirely true. That’s because there are healthy fats that are good to consume in small portions.
The kinds of fat intake you want to avoid are foods high in trans or saturated fats. For example, you could eat a healthy and high-fat meal containing nuts, fish, or avocados.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the total number of calories you consume in a post-workout meal. Calorie consumption is essential for energy. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and consume too many calories.
Eating more calories than you burn off in a day leads to weight gain.
When is the best time to eat after a workout?
Unfortunately, there’s no exact magic time to have a post-workout snack. But there are time ranges you can follow. Most experts recommend eating within two hours after you exercise for optimal muscle growth.
If you need a meal before your workout, try to eat three hours before your exercise session.
What to eat after a workout to build muscle: 8 great ideas
You learned why post-workout food is so important. Now, let’s look at some of the best foods and beverages to help you build muscle.
1. Protein powder
Products like whey protein powder contain essential amino acids. Consuming these amino acids can help with muscle building since these ingredients are also building blocks for new muscle tissue.
I’d recommend buying a cheap shaker with one of those metal balls if you plan on drinking a protein shake after exercising. That’s because protein powder is notorious for clumping up. With a shaker cup, you can increase protein intake without dealing with nasty chunks of powder in your drink.
Protein powders are available in a wide range of flavors. Plus, these products are super convenient ways to get more grams of protein into your daily meal regimen without cooking.
2. Chocolate milk
As someone who could probably live on chocolate milk, I was so happy to learn that it’s a great post-workout drink. Chocolate milk contains fat, carbs, and protein.
That means chocolate milk helps promote muscle repair and replenish the body’s glycogen stores. If you want to limit fat intake, I’d recommend looking for skim or 1% chocolate milk.
3. Sweet potatoes
You can help prevent muscle protein breakdown and get the fuel you need from the complex carbohydrates found in sweet potatoes. Not only does a sweet potato contain vitamins, but it also helps increase your body’s glycogen stores. Plus, it’s a low-cost food if you’re bulking up on a budget.
The sweet potato is a versatile side you can include alongside lean protein. This food will also help you have a meal rich in copper, which is beneficial for repairing damaged muscle fibers.
Speaking of fiber, the sweet potato is also rich in fiber. Having fiber in your diet helps you feel full, which is great for preventing cravings for unhealthy snacks. Besides being a component of what to eat after a workout to build muscle, sweet potatoes can also satisfy your sweet tooth. When that happens, you may be less inclined to fill up with unhealthy snacks.
4. Whole grain bread
If you want carbs without gaining a lot of fat, I’d recommend checking out whole-grain products. Things like whole-grain bread and rice can help with glycogen synthesis and fuel your body after resistance training.
Whole grain bread contains lots of vitamins and nutrients that get left out of other bread. This type of bread is also great for a balanced diet, as it’s rich in protein and fiber. So, make sure you choose whole-grain bread the next time you want to eat post-workout sandwiches.
Pair your whole grain bread with lunch meat and cheese for a fast, easy, and delicious post-workout meal.
5. Peanut butter
No list of what to eat after a workout to build muscle is complete without including peanut butter. With about four grams of protein per spoonful, peanut butter is great for preventing muscle breakdown.
This food also contains lots of vitamins and antioxidants to keep you healthy. Whether you prefer it creamy or crunchy, peanut butter is a great food to eat in moderation after strenuous workouts.
While peanut butter contains the healthy fats mentioned earlier, you might not want to go overboard on this food if you’re watching your weight.
You can also get the proper nutrition your body needs by eating eggs. Having eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner can help keep your cholesterol levels in check. Plus, eggs are a cost-effective way to get the muscle protein you need.
A part of what makes this food what to eat after a workout to build muscle is its versatility. There are also about a million ways to prepare eggs. If you get tired of scrambled eggs, you can make an omelet or something similar.
Plus, like many of the foods mentioned on this list, eggs contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients. For instance, consuming a single egg gives your body selenium, vitamin B12, and choline. Eggs also contain carbohydrates to help with muscle glycogen synthesis.
There’s a reason why so many bodybuilders consume chicken after intense exercise. That’s because chicken is a high-protein, low-calorie food that helps to increase muscle mass. In fact, one cup of chicken contains 38 grams of protein!
With so much protein in chicken, this food works well at keeping you full while lowering your body weight.
8. Greek yogurt
Another great way to eat protein is by consuming Greek yogurt. This wonderful and delicious food can make a great snack on its own. You can also add this type of yogurt to many recipes to create healthy dishes.
In conclusion, what to eat after a workout to build muscle is easy to understand after checking out my list. There are many great-tasting foods and beverages to help you maximize your protein intake after exercise. After your next tough workout, give your muscles what they need by consuming high-protein meals or snacks.