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Eating a healthy meal after hitting the gym is a must to help your muscles recover! This is because, during exercise, muscles burn their stored-up glycogen and proteins, which the body needs to build back up later. Chowing down on a nutritious meal helps the body reproduce glycogen and proteins faster, reducing the risk for muscle loss and increasing the growth of new muscle tissue.

Proteins and carbohydrates are the two main nutrients the body needs to recover after exercising. Foods should be easy to digest to ensure the body absorbs its nutrients quickly. Consuming protein lets the body repair old and build new muscle post-workout. Ideas for protein-rich post-workout foods include salmon, eggs, chicken, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt. Adding some good fats to the after-gym meal can make it more satisfying to the tummy but should be limited to avoid slowing nutrient absorption too much. A few examples of foods rich in good fats include nuts and nut butter and avocados.

Eating carbohydrates replenishes the body’s glycogen stores, which were used as fuel during exercise. The amount of carbs needed to refuel the body after the gym depends on the type of activity one did. For instance, cardio and endurance workouts burn more glycogen than strength training, so more carbohydrates should be consumed after a run than lifting weights. Some delicious and nutritious choices include sweet potatoes, fruit, oatmeal, pasta, rice cakes, and quinoa.

While eating the right foods after exercising is key, the timing of a post-gym meal is just as important. Experts say that eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates no more than 45 minutes after working out yields the best recovery results. For those who eat before hitting the gym, extending that time a bit is OK because the body can still use the pre-workout meal’s nutrients to recover.

In addition to eating a healthy meal packed with protein and carbs after working out, drinking lots of water should also be a top priority. Sweating causes the body to lose water and electrolytes. Because dehydration can cause so many health issues, replacing those both during and after a workout improves the body’s performance and recovery.

In order to get the most out of a workout, it’s essential to replace the proteins, glycogen, water, and electrolytes the body loses.