Refueling After a Workout - Macronutrient Ratio

Alyssa Atkinson

Along with the reason why.
Post Workout Fuel.Ella Olsson/Unsplash

I have been a morning exerciser for over a decade. While I have tried evening workouts on and off throughout that period of time, I always seem to return to my early workout schedule.

There are positives and negatives to working out at various times throughout the day, but the choice ultimately comes down to your personal preference and schedule.

However, regardless of when you choose to exercise, there is one crucial thing you absolutely have to do once you finish your workout — eat.Choosing the proper post-workout meal or snack is arguably just as important as the workout itself. When you don’t refuel correctly, you could face a variety of negative consequences, such as decreased recovery and fitness gains.

As someone who exercises almost every single morning, I have perfected my post-run fuel to optimize both recovery and results based on science and research. The following is what I eat immediately after I work out each morning.

The Food Timing

Before I go through exactly what I eat after a workout, I want to touch on the timing of when exactly I eat.

Many studies have shown that there is a crucial window of time after working out to optimize your recovery. It’s within about 30–60 minutes post-exercise, so I always try to refuel with something within that timeframe. At the very least, you want to get some food into your body within the first two hours.

Interestingly enough, a study published in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” in 2002 found that:

“If you wait just two hours post workout to consume a meal, your ability to refuel your muscles diminishes by 50 percent.”

While it can be difficult to eat right after a tough workout if your appetite is suppressed, it’s very important to do so, even if that means taking in liquid calories in the form of a smoothie.

The Macronutrient Ratio

While the timing of your post-workout meal is incredibly important, so is the macronutrient ratio. My college cross-country coach always recommended a three or four to one carb to protein ratio, and that always worked well for me.

Livestrong also recommends taking in about “30 to 40 grams of carbs after a workout and 10 to 15 grams of protein.”

This ratio makes sense from a scientific standpoint because consuming carbs after you exercise:

“restores your muscles’ energy stores, while an adequate amount of protein assists in recovery and repair."

The main takeaway here is to refuel with a snack or meal rich in both carbs and protein soon after your workout for optimal recovery and repair.

The Fueling Options

Once you have nailed down the timing and macronutrient content of your post workout meal or snack, all that is left is to decide exactly what to make. Sometimes, this can be the most difficult part.

After I complete an especially grueling workout, I often find that I’m not very hungry right after I finish. During these times, I love to make a protein shake with a banana, almond milk, nut butter, and some vegan protein powder. This is a great option for those days when you don’t have much of an appetite.

After a short, easy run, I will usually opt for a smaller snack that will hold me over until my next meal, such as a banana or apple with nut butter and chia seeds. Another great option is avocado toast.

Really, the possibilities are endless. If you pair any protein and carb rich sources together, you will have no problem hitting the 30–40 grams of carbs to 10–15 grams of protein ratio.

The evidence is clear that perfecting your post-workout fueling strategy will help you optimize both recovery and fitness gains. Worst comes to worst, it’s always better to get something in your system after a workout rather than waiting for many hours to refuel.

Work out hard, recover harder, and you’ll be well on your way to making noticeable gains in your overall health and fitness.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC

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