Have you ever finished an amazing workout and felt completely drained of energy and exhausted within a few hours? The primary objective for a training session is to have the clients leave the gym feeling better than when they walked in. But what is the point of leaving the gym on a high, only to come crashing down later because you haven’t refuelled? This is where post-exercise nutrition comes into play. Specifically, what and how much you should be eating/drinking after a workout? What can you do to physically and mentally perform over the next 48 hours?  

Refuel to Recover

By enhancing post-exercise nutrition, you’ll be able to physically and mentally perform more effectively. You will also complement your training and induce the metabolic adaptations to training. Basically, you’ll be giving your body every chance of adapting to the workout you’ve just finished.  

So let’s break it down to three of the most important post-workout nutrients:  


When we exercise, our muscles require fuel to contract and produce movement. The main source of fuel in the body comes in the form carbohydrates and is stored within muscles as glycogen. The glycogen stores are depleted during exercise. Research has also highlighted a significant relationship between muscle glycogen depletion and the subjective feeling of fatigue. Therefore, after exercise it is important to replenish muscle glycogen stores. The recommended post-exercise carbohydrate range is 1.0-1.5 g/kg of bodyweight (80-120g for an 80kg individual). For higher glycogen level replenishment it is recommended to ingest the carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercise. If you are not exercising within the next 24 hours, the timing of ingestion is not as important. Instead, adequate carbohydrate intake is required over a 24-hour period. A higher carbohydrate intake is recommended when attempting to build muscle. A lower intake is recommended if weight-loss is your goal. 


Following a bout of strenuous exercise, research indicates there is an increased amount of muscle damage in the respective muscles. The intake of protein following exercise can provide amino acids for the maintenance and repair of muscle proteins. While the range varies within literature, approximately 20g of protein is recommended within 30 minutes post-exercise. This number may be increased to approximately 25-30g of protein for individuals completing high intensity strength, speed or endurance training. This can also be calculated using the guide – 0.8-1.0g/kg BW to 1.5-2.0g/kg BW. It is worth noting that intake of protein should be from dietary sources and additional supplementation is not required. However, if you’re returning to the office with a busy schedule following a workout, a protein shake is a sufficient option to attain protein.  

A common question I am asked as a trainer is; “If a serving of chicken has more protein per serving than steak, is chicken a better option?”. In short, no. Providing that each option has sufficient protein per serving (20g), each option is suitable. However, when protein is consumed in excess, it is stored within the body as glucose or fat if it is not used as a fuel source. It is important to consider other nutrients such as fat content and how these nutrients align with your training goals. 


During exercise the average sweat rates are 0.5-2.0L/hour, and athletic performance can be significantly impaired when 2% or more of body mass is lost through sweat. This performance decrease typically occurs during 60-90 minutes of exercise. Furthermore, weight loss of 4% due to sweat may lead to serious conditions such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In addition to physical performance, a dehydrated state can lead to deficits in cognitive performance. As a result, it is important to replenish fluids during and following exercise to maintain athletic and cognitive performance.  

So how do you tie this all together to maintain your post-workout buzz? There’s not one go to option for your post-workout nutrition, however, the best way to ensure your body is sufficiently refuelled is preparation. Whether it’s having a snack in your bag for your walk back to the office, having a designated place to buy your post-workout meal or bringing a protein shake with you, having a plan on how you’re going to refuel after your workout will ensure you’re capitalising on your training.  

Here are a few simple high protein post-workout snack/meal options: 

  • Hard-boiled eggs: Each hard-boiled egg contains 6g of protein. Whether eaten alone or added to a salad for lunch, hard-boiled eggs are a convenient, high protein option.  
  • Almonds: A 100g serving of almonds contains 21g of protein.  Almonds can easily be brought along with you for you to snack on while you walk back to the office or drive home.  
  • Flavoured, low fat milk: 1 cup of flavoured, low fat milk contains 8g of protein. This is a convenient option that can be purchased after your workout, however, may not be the best option if the aim of your training is weight loss.  
  • Protein shakes: While there is a huge range of options, the majority of well-trusted brands contain approximately 20-30g protein that also come in vegan options. If you are trying to build size and muscle, there are also options that contain high carbohydrate servings to assist with your additional carbohydrate requirements.  
  • Chicken: An 80g serving of chicken contains 22g protein. Whether eaten on a sandwich or added to a salad, chicken is another convenient option to attain your post-workout protein requirements.  

Whatever option you decide is most suitable for you and your training goals, it is important you have a plan in place to ensure you are refuelling your body after training. This will ensure you’re matching your training program and nutritional needs to achieve your goals.