Post-workout Nutrition: Eating to Replenish Lost Nutrients

Post-workout Nutrition: Eating to Replenish Lost Nutrients

Post-workout Nutrition: Eating to Replenish Lost Nutrients

Consume Carbohydrates and Protein:

Carbohydrates and protein are optimal for glycogen replenishment and muscle repair and growth and should be consumed within 15-60 minutes of ending exercise to allow the most efficient nutrient absorption. However, it is important to note that nutrient timing is less important than what was previously thought, so while following this guideline ensures you consume the appropriate nutrients for recovery, if you are unable to eat within 60 minutes post-workout, your body will still be very efficient at repairing and growing provided you consume adequate calories and nutrients throughout the rest of the day.

Carbohydrates are necessary to fill glycogen stores that were used during your workout. Consuming carbohydrates 30-60 minutes post-workout (60 grams is sufficient) and throughout the day will sufficiently replenish muscle glycogen stores in time for exercise the following day. Additionally, carbohydrates cause a rise in blood sugar, initiating the release of insulin which helps to prevent catabolism (breakdown) of muscle protein by transporting carbohydrate and amino acids into the muscle.

Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which begins 30 minutes post-exercise, peaks around 1.5 hours, and returns to baseline after 2 hours. To receive the benefits of elevated MPS, it is essential to consume about 20 grams of high-quality protein within 15-60 minutes of your workout, and because MPS continues to occur for up to and beyond 24 hours, it’s important to consume a moderate amount of protein throughout the day. Additionally, similar to carbohydrates, protein promotes insulin secretion which helps to prevent catabolism of muscle protein (1).

It is important to note that most people easily consume the amount of protein recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine. The recommended amount of protein for the average lightly-active person is 0.36 g protein/lb of body weight. For athletes, the recommendation ranges from 0.5-0.8 g protein/lb of body weight, with endurance athletes requiring less and strength training athletes requiring more. Amounts above this have not been shown to provide any extra benefit and may actually be harmful to the kidneys over time (2).

High-quality protein sources, called complete proteins, contain all of the essential amino acids that your body requires and are important for optimal growth and repair of muscles. Examples include animal products like meats, fish, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and milk and plant-based sources like quinoa, buckwheat, soy, and Ezekiel bread. Additionally, some foods can be combined to create complete proteins, like hummus and whole wheat pita, beans and rice, peanut butter and whole wheat bread, and seitan and soy sauce. These protein sources are listed below with the amount of protein they contain in usual amounts consumed.


Protein SourceAmountProtein (g)
Meats/fish1 oz7
Greek yogurt6 oz16
Cheese1 oz7
Cottage cheese4 oz12
Milk8 oz8
Quinoa1 cup cooked8
Buckwheat1 cup cooked6
Ezekiel bread2 slices8
Tofu1/2 cup10
Tempeh1/2 cup15
Natto1/2 cup15
Protein SourceAmountProtein (g)
Whole wheat pita
2 Tbsp
1 pita
Black beans
Brown rice
1/2 cup
1/2 cup
Soy sauce
1/3 cup
1 Tbsp
Peanut butter
Whole wheat bread
2 Tbsp
2 slices



  1. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise
  2. Position Sports Medicine Nutrition and Athletic Performance

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Collette Sinnott, RD, CPT

Hi there! I am a registered dietitian & certified personal trainer with a love of cooking and the outdoors! I created this blog to share my nutrition and fitness expertise and promote healthy lifestyles focused on disease prevention. I advocate for variety in food choices without restriction and encourage others to eat mostly nutrient-dense foods while including enjoyable foods. I am also passionate about fitness and recognize the benefit in moving a little each day!

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