If you’re looking for the best post-workout meal for weight loss then you’ve come to the right place.
Post-workout nutrition is very important as it affects how your body recovers from your workouts. If your body is improperly recovering after your workout then you won’t be maximizing your results.
There’s nothing worse than pushing yourself really hard during your workout to only lose some of the results with the post-workout meal.
Many people trying to lose weight make the mistake of skipping their post-workout meal to try and save calories. But this isn’t a good idea.
Even if you’re already fasting you should focus on your post-workout meal to enhance your results. You’ll be able to recover faster and replenish your muscles to maximize the results you’ll get from your workout.
The best post-workout meal really depends on quite a few factors. These include the intensity of your training, whether you’ve already eaten before your workout and your goals.
So it’s hard to give a universal answer. But there are some really great ideas for post-workout meals here if you’re trying to lose weight.
I know finding the best post-workout meal for weight loss can be confusing. Here you’ll discover how you can maximize your fat burning while gaining lean muscle just by eating the right post-workout meal.
Why You Need a Post-Workout Meal
First things first, you don’t need a post-workout meal if you just took your dog out for a walk around the block.
It’s important to replenish your body if your shirt is soaked with sweat. Like after an intense workout of weightlifting, cross training or long run that
It might seem a little counterintuitive to put more calories into your body after you just burned them off. Yet it’s critical to enhancing and maximizing your results.
Having a post-workout meal will help to refill the energy stores you burned off. All while providing energy to your muscles that will help them rebuild.
If you’re working out in a fasted state then you’re going to need a meal after your workout. Your body will be completely depleted of an energy source.
You can see my full write-up on intermittent fasting for weight loss here.
Most people don’t work out with zero food in their body. So you most likely will not need a big post-workout meal if you’re trying to lose weight.
If you’re making use of intermittent fasting then it’s a good idea to have a carb-rich meal after your workout to break the fast.
Make sure you are careful with drinking smoothies after your workout. They’re usually very high in sugar and calorie dense.
You want to focus on eating meals post-workout that will maintain steady blood sugar levels.
If you’re trying to lose weight then eating too many fast digesting carbs post-workout might increase your hunger a few hours later.
The Making of a Post-Workout Meal
When you’re working out your body uses glycogen, carbohydrates, for energy.
This glycogen is usually taken first from your muscles. So reason would think it be a good idea to have some carbs after your workout depending on your goals.
Yet, if you’re trying to lose weight and burn fat then limiting your carbs post-workout should be a priority.
Many people commonly misbelieve you should have carbs along with your protein post-workout to maximize protein synthesis.
Taking a quality whey protein powder post-workout will also create a large insulin release helping you lose weight and gain some lean muscle.
If you try to lose weight then taking carbs post-workout could harm your fat burning.
This is because you’ll be giving your body glucose to use for energy instead of burning it from your fat.
This Netherlands study found eating carbs post-workout did not stimulate post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. So essentially taking carbs post-workout made no difference.
You’re going to need ample amounts of protein post-workout to increase weight loss.
Whey protein powder is the best in my opinion. The branched-chain amino acids making up the protein contains the building blocks your muscles need to rebuild.
This is important because resistance exercise is the process of breaking down your muscle. It’s important to rebuild them properly and for that you need protein.
You also don’t need a ton of calories for your post-workout meal especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
It’s a good idea to limit your calories post-workout because your body can only process so many proteins and carbs at a time.
Most don’t crave a large meal after your workout for this very reason. It’s best to eat smaller and easier digestible foods post-workout.
Your body is also more insulin sensitive in a post-workout state. This is because contracting your muscles causes glucose to go into them just like insulin does.
The carbs you eat post-workout are less likely to be shuttled to your liver and converted into fat.
They’re more likely to be moved into your muscles by insulin. Then they are converted into glycogen for a future energy source.
When to Eat the Post-Workout Meal
If you haven’t eaten anything before your workout then it’s important to eat a post-workout meal. Especially if your body is totally depleted of energy.
This definitely applies to early morning fasting cardio too. There are studies finding doing cardio while fasted helps to burn more fat.
If you’re trying to lose weight then it’s better to have your carbohydrates before your workout than after.
This way you will better burn them during the workout. You don’t want to be “hangry” while working out nor feel like you’re going to pass out.
This study found a 1-3 hour post-workout feeding window was the best to increase the building of more lean muscle.
This post-workout feeding window will help to maximize your results. It starts right after you finish your work out. Then it’ll lose its potency by 50% every 30 minutes.
So the optimal timing for a post-workout meal is within 15 minutes of finishing your workout. Doing so will enhance your recovery better and faster.
This new study published in Nutrients found whey protein post-workout promoted increases in strength and lean muscle in women.
But the researchers also noted timing didn’t really make much of a difference of when they took it.
I stick to the half before and half after method. We’ll get more into that soon.
Keep in mind you should stay away from caffeine immediately post-workout as it can stall your recovery.
Caffeine elevates cortisol (the stress hormone) which is something you don’t want in your body post-workout.
You can even take some vitamin C after your workout to help clear the close cortisol out of your body.
Best Post-Workout Meals for Weight Loss
A lower carbohydrate, grass-fed whey protein powder is going to be the best post-workout meal you can put into your body to maximize results.
Make sure you don’t get a whey protein powder that contains added sugars, artificial sweeteners or flavorings. You don’t want to put that garbage into your body.
It tastes delicious, uses only natural sweeteners and contains only the highest quality whey protein.
I like to drink half of it before my workout and half afterward to maximize the results.
This way you’ll get a little bit of energy into your body before the workout. Then you’ll still be able to replenish your body and muscles afterward.
It’s important to get 15 to 30g of quick digesting protein into your body for its post-workout meal. A high-quality whey protein shake is your best bet.
Make sure you stay away from soy protein as it will not trigger the same protein synthesis as whey protein.
You can read more on why soy is bad for you here at my other blog post.
Some other quality fast digesting protein examples include:
- chicken breasts
- lean ground beef
- low-fat Greek yogurt
- low-fat cottage cheese
During your workout, you can also supplement with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to help prevent muscle breakdown.
It’s best not to train hard on an empty stomach so I’ll usually supplement with BCAAs if I’m fasting. If you’re not going to drink half your protein shake before then try taking some BCAAs.
They contain zero calories and will give your body fast digesting protein building blocks.
Make sure you say away from sports drinks and sugary smoothies for your post-workout meal. Spiking your blood sugar post-workout will cause your body to release cortisol.
If you’re going to eat carbs post-workout then you need to earn them with a very intense workout. The carbs you’re going to want to eat post-workout should be of the starchy variety.
Some of my favorite examples include:
- sweet potatoes with cinnamon sprinkled on top (to enhance your insulin sensitivity)
- white rice
More Post-Workout Meal Do’s & Don’ts
It’s also a good idea to replenish your body with water and electrolytes after your workout.
If you’re working out hard then you most likely sweated a lot too. This means your body it is now dehydrated and your muscles are like a dried out sponge.
Your body needs the electrolytes sodium and potassium to improve your cellular water balance. This is critical to rehydrating your body the right way after a hard workout.
You can also reduce your soreness by eating more organic blueberries and tart cherries. This study found drinking tart cherry juice help athletes improve their recovery time.
Make sure you take your blueberries and tart cherries separately from your whey protein powder. The protein can prevent your body from absorbing all the antioxidants.
Try taking a quality fish oil supplement containing the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
Make sure you find the best omega-3 fish oil you can get.
Use one that’s ultra-purified and contains the highest quality EPA and DHA from wild caught fish. Make sure it’s 3rd party tested so you know you’re getting quality.
Fish oil post-workout can accelerate your recovery time as it improves the delivery of nutrients to your muscles.
This will enhance your body’s ability to convert the protein you’re eating into the muscle post-workout.
Taking omega-3 fats can also help to reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity in your body.
Make sure you also have your house is in order. Nutrient deficiencies can slow your recovery time significantly.
Chronic stress is a huge way to slow down the time it takes for your body to recover.
Make sure you’re meeting all your protein requirements and eating your veggies throughout the day.
Lastly, make sure you’re getting a good night sleep to complete your rest and recovery time after your earlier workout.
You can see the best foods to eat before bed here.
What should you do after a workout?
After you’ve your cool down then you should also hydrate by drinking a lot of water. You’re most likely sweat a lot during your workouts so it’s a good idea to replace those lost fluids by drinking more water. Then you can also add in a post workout shake to help provide your body with the nutrients to recover from your intense exercise.
What should you not eat after a workout?
I would highly recommend against eating junk food after a workout because it’s not going to do much to help your body recover. Also you shouldn’t be eating that junk in the first place so it stands to reason you also should be eating it after you’re finish working out. Instead reward your body with a nutritious protein shake full of nutrients after you finished the workout.
The Last Word
Giving your body the best post-workout meal will help improve your recovery time and enhance weight loss.
Eating the wrong thing or skipping your post-workout meal entirely can increase the time it takes for your body to recover.
Studies have found a high-quality whey protein powder is the best post-workout meal.
It’s easy two take as you can just put it in your shaker cup and drink it after the gym.
Often I’ll see people make super complicated post-workout meals that they stop eating after a short while. That’s because they’re making it too hard on themselves.
The easier you can make it on yourself the more likely you are to do it.
Try getting your protein shake in not too long after your workout, but some studies have found the timing isn’t too big a deal as long as you get it.
Putting the best post-workout meal for weight loss into your body will help to improve your recovery. You’ll then be able to keep working out hard and getting the results you want.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.