Sports Nutrition Recovery: What to Eat After a Workout
Print Friendly, PDF & Email



nutrition expert Andrea Holwegner on AM770 discusses sports nutritionWhat, when and how much to eat after intense exercise is crucial to help your body get the most from your workouts and go into your next workout recharged and refueled.

Why is the recovery nutrition meal the most important meal of the day for athletes?

You often hear breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For an athlete or anyone participating in intense weight room workouts or endurance events (such as running or cycling) it is the recovery nutrition meal that is by far the most important meal of the day.

A solid recovery nutrition meal is key so that:

  • You can be fresh and ready to push hard in your next workout (this is especially important if you are going to be training again soon).
  • Your muscle energy stores are maximized.
  • Your muscles can repair and rebuild
  • You can build up your immune system (since intense exercise can wear this down).

What is more important, carbohydrates or protein?

Both carbohydrate and protein are key in the recovery nutrition meal. Better results are achieved by taking in a mix of carbohydrates with protein rather than either of these alone.

Carbohydrates (carbs)

  • Found in foods such as grains, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, yogurt and sweets.
  • Essential to run your brain and central nervous system.
  • The preferred energy source for your muscles (like gasoline for a vehicle).
  • Without enough carbs in your overall training diet you will experience fatigue, lowered endurance, power and strength.
  • Without enough carbs in the recovery meal you will experience poor energy, muscle fatigue, heavy tired muscles and potentially go into your next workout feeling unrecovered.


  • Found in foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs.
  • Important for muscle and tissue repair, muscle building, immune function and enzymes that keep your body processes running smoothly.
  • NOT a preferred energy source for your muscles (carbohydrates are best).
  • Without enough protein in your overall training diet you will experience poor muscle repair and building, You will also be more likely to pick up a cold or flu. You also may be at higher risk for iron deficiency since high protein foods tend to also be the ones that are good sources of iron.
  • Without enough protein in the recovery meal specifically, you run the risk of going into your next workout with a run down immune system and sore muscles.

How soon and how much should I eat after a workout?

Timing is key. As soon as possible (ideally within 30 minutes of completing your high-intensity workout) begin refueling with a snack or meal. Consume water and food to supply fluids, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein.

Sample recovery meals after high intensity or endurance based workouts:

    • Water, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with berries and granola and a peanut butter and jam sandwich.
    fruit-and-nut-power-bar recipe

    Homemade Fruit and Power Bar Recipe

    • Initial snack if supper is delayed: Water, homemade fruit and nut power bar
    • Stir-fry with chicken/meat/tofu, mixed veggies and rice. Glass of milk or almond milk.
    • Initial snack: Water and Homemade muffin(s)
    • Smoothie made with unsweetened juice, frozen berries/mango, banana as well as Greek yogurt and hemp hearts (or alternatively protein powder).

Here are the technical numbers of what you need post recovery as suggested in the recent 2016 Joint position paper of Dietitians of Canada, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • A carbohydrate intake of approximately 1-1.2 g/kg/h (1-1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour) starting soon after exercise and continuing for 4-6 hours.
  • A protein intake of about 0.25 -0.3 g/kg (0.25 – 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight).
  • A fluid intake of 1.25 – 1.5 liters of fluid for every 1 kilogram of body weight lost (due to sweat loss during exercise). 

Should I reduce my recovery intake if I am trying to lose weight?

No. Never sacrifice good nutrition, sufficient calories and enough carbohydrates and protein post workout. This is the most important time of the day for you to refuel and ensure your body will respond well to the workout and also to ensure you will go into the next workout strong instead of run down, sore and low energy. If you need to reduce your intake, do so at other times of the day but keep your recovery nutrition intake high.

If you are training hard and also working on body composition goals to shift your weight work with a Sports Dietitian that can help you figure out a custom plan to achieve both of these goals simultaneously.  For more information about sports nutrition and our Calgary nutrition counselling practice (or for phone and skype appointments) with our sports dietitian contact us here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

As seen in


Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This