Ask The Experts: Should I Refuel After My Workout?

One of the most common questions I get as a personal trainer is: “Do I need to refuel after a workout?

Refueling is an valuable topic many have tried to tackle. It’s important to know whether or not you can and should maximize your recovery with a consumable resource. So let’s break it down!

What is Refueling?

The notion is that there’s a small window of time after every workout in which you need to consume a “refueling” meal or snack. Usually this consists of a smoothie, protein shake, or as suggested by some trainers, chocolate milk. This is done to maximize your muscle recovery and replenish your energy.

The Science of Refuelling

The main goal of post-exercise fueling is to replenish glycogen stores and facilitate muscle repair. Normally these meals are consumed within 30 minutes of the workout, are low-fat, and have a high carbohydrate content with protein.

These kinds of aggressive refueling strategies are for athletes following vigorous training regimens, especially those doing two-a-days or three-a-days. The amount of refueling needed is dependent on the time spent exercising.

For a slow, lower intensity workout, refueling may not be required. For bodybuilders, highly active athletes, and endurance athletes, it’s necessary.

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The Simple Truth

The truth is that the average fitness enthusiast who trains at a moderate intensity does not necessarily need a strategic “refueling ” plan. Normal diets can facilitate recovery within 24 to 48 hours. If you miss that 30-minute window, it’s not going to affect your recovery greatly.

Do you need it? Not exactly.

Do you want it? Sure!

Replenishing those carbs right after a workout feels great. It’ll refresh your energy and spark your mind.

The key to remember is that you shouldn’t stress about it. If it’s available and you can get one in, you’ll be glad you did. But don’t believe that your workout is useless unless you get in a recovery meal.

Post-Workout Snack Options

Some of my favorite post-exercise snacks:

References:

  • American Council on Exercise Health Coach Manual, pg 177 “Application of Nutrition”
  • Kreisler, R.B. (2010).  ISSN exercise and sports review: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
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Luke Andrus is a certified personal trainer, ACE health coach, writer, folk music drummer, husband, and a father. Most of his writing experience is in poetry and fictional short stories, and he also proposed to his wife with a self-published children's book. He is a Narnia nerd with a degree in History, a minor in English, and a semi-obsession with the French language. He believes that fitness is not just about vanity, but about lifestyle, integrity, and the ability to take control of your life.