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What Should You Eat After Your Workout?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

post workout meal

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  • Your post-workout meal can influence the overall health effects of exercise, so what to eat after your workout is an important consideration. Optimizing your health is not the same as optimizing your performance. These two goals actually have conflicting end points, and require different strategies
  • If your goal is general health and longevity, then the post-workout recommendations for strength training and cardio or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are identical, and involve eating plenty of protein and avoiding starchy carbs
  • Competitive athletes engaged in explosive types of exercise, whose focus is on maximizing physical performance, need plenty of healthy starchy carbohydrates in their post-workout meal (but not refined sugar)
  • Ideally, fast for 14 to 18 hours and work out in a fasted state. Shortly afterward, have your largest meal of the day with plenty of high-quality protein and nonstarchy vegetable carbs, making sure you get several grams of leucine and arginine, both of which are potent mTOR stimulators
  • Fasting activates autophagy, allowing your body to clean out damaged cells. Exercising while fasted maximizes autophagy even further. Refeeding with protein after your fasted workout then activates mTOR, thus shutting down autophagy and starting the rebuilding process

Your post-workout meal can influence the overall health effects of exercise, so what to eat after your workout is an important consideration. For example, research has shown that minimizing carbohydrates after exercise can enhance your insulin sensitivity, compared to simply reducing your calorie intake, and optimizing your insulin sensitivity is key for maintaining good health.

That said, it's important to realize that optimizing your health is not the same as optimizing your performance. These two goals actually have conflicting end points, and require different strategies. In other words, you cannot optimize your athletic performance and longevity simultaneously — you need to decide which of these goals you're trying to accomplish.


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