Whether your workout routine consists of three morning jogs or five CrossFit classes a week, there’s a good chance your endorphin date is just about always followed with one thing: food.
After a good sweat you’re probably hungry enough to nosh on everything in the fridge—but if you don’t nom with your goals in mind, your post-workout eats might totally undo the miles or reps you just put in.
To fuel future workouts (and results!) you’ll have to tailor your après-sweat snack to your fitness goals. Whether you’re trying to drop pounds, bulk up, or run really, really far, use this expert-backed guide to find your ideal post-workout meal.
Goal: Fat Loss
If you’re sweating up a storm to shred fat, your post-workout meal can either propel you toward that lean physique or sabotage your efforts big time. Calorie control is key; that means avoiding calorie-bomb shakes or eating everything in sight after a workout, explains Jim White, R.D., founder of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios.
Since specific calorie needs depend on your size, think in terms of servings or portions. You want to choose a snack or meal that provides just enough carbs to replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles, as well as some protein, White says. Go for one serving of each.
That might look like a basic protein shake consisting of one scoop of protein powder blended with ice and almond milk, or a serving of Greek yogurt with a cup of blueberries mixed in.
Lifting serious poundage to build muscle and make strength gains? Your workouts really put stress on your muscles, so you’ll need more carbs and protein post-workout to rebuild your muscle tissue, says White. Go for a snack or meal that’s two servings of protein, a serving of carbs, and a serving of fat.
Whip up a shake with skim milk, a scoop of whey protein, a half-cup of oatmeal, and a spoonful of peanut butter, White suggests. “You’ll get 25 grams of carbs from the oats, 25 grams of protein from the whey, plus potassium, calcium, and vitamin D from the milk.”
Or, scoop up a cup of cottage cheese with a serving of whole-grain crackers. (Cottage cheese packs 28 grams of protein per cup.)
If you train before lunch or dinner (or even breakfast, no judgment), go for a lean turkey burger with a bun and a half-cup of brown rice—or skip the bun for a full cup of brown rice.
Goal: Maintain Bodyweight & Fitness
When you’re feelin’ yourself—your weight’s in a healthy place and you’re sweating to keep it there—your ideal post-workout snack is all about balance. You want some protein and carbs to refuel, plus a little fat to keep you satiated, says White. One serving of protein, one serving of carbs, and one serving of fat will get you there.
You might go for two hardboiled eggs, a slice of cheese, and half a piece of fruit, or hummus with veggie sticks or pita chips, he suggests.
Even a simple turkey sandwich will do—just go for whole-grain bread, make sure to include lettuce and tomato, and grab some extra veggies to go with it.
Goal: Endurance Performance
Distance runners, triathletes, and obstacle race enthusiasts, we’re looking at you. If you’re spending hours on the run (or on the bike, or in the pool) you need top-notch post-workout nutrition to keep performing at your best.
Electrolytes and carbs are your two best friends, according to White. Lots of carbs help keep your muscles fueled, while electrolytes (electrically charged minerals like potassium and sodium) help your muscles and heart function properly. Nosh on two to three servings of carbs and a serving of protein.
Blend up a shake with coconut water, whey protein, and two servings of fruit—that’s a full banana or a cup and a half of berries. You’ll get carbs from the fruit and electrolytes from the coconut water, says White.
Or, slather a medium whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and drink a glass of milk on the side. If you’re short on time, grab a protein bar that’s higher in carbs—look for somewhere around 60 grams—to restock your muscles with glycogen to recover and prep for your next training session.
Pin this infographic for prime post-workout nutrition, whatever your goal: