Eating after exercise: the most important questions and answers

Essen nach dem Sport: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

In addition to regular exercise, healthy nutrition is extremely important for the human body to have a healthy attitude towards life. Exercising in the gym, in the great outdoors or at home not only helps us get our body in the shape we want, it also has a positive effect on our mind and soul.

With our regular workouts, we get closer to our training goals bit by bit. But is the workout alone enough to achieve your goal? No, regardless of your training goal, the optimal nutritional setting is of great importance.

But for many it is unclear what can be consumed after exercise to give the body the necessary regeneration. This article is designed to take away your doubts about your post-exercise diet and provide you with comprehensive information on proper nutrition.

the essentials in brief

  • In addition to the training session, the right diet is an important criterion for achieving the desired training goal.
  • Eating after exercise supports not only the regeneration of our body, but also the development of muscle mass and the repair of cell damage.
  • Depending on the training goal, the diet after exercise can be optimally tailored to the person.

Eating after exercise: what you should know

After training, we often ask ourselves whether we should eat food and if so, what to consider. In the following section you will find answers to the most important questions about nutrition after exercise.

Why is proper post-exercise nutrition so important?

After a powerful workout, our body wants nothing more than plenty of nutrients for regeneration and a new energy supply. The muscles are regenerated by the new energies that we take in. A healthy diet plays a major role in this. Proper nutrition after exercise also promotes

  • active muscle building,
  • the regeneration of the body.

Never skip your post-exercise meal. Because with the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates, you will get closer and closer to your desired training goal.

What nutrients should our post-workout meal consist of?

After training, many people ask themselves what the optimal meal should look like and what needs to be considered. If the meal is put together correctly, there should be enough nutrients such as proteins and carbohydrates.

Mixture of different vegetables

A delicious mixture of different types of vegetables not only looks delicious, it tastes good too. (Anna Pelzer / Unsplash)

The nutrients allow for optimal body regeneration, building muscle proteins and replenishing glycogen stores (5).

In addition, the right diet is crucial for muscle building and muscle formation. The composition of the meal depends on the one hand on which sport is practiced and on the other hand on the goal set for the training session.


But why should we actually consume carbohydrates after training? I would like to explain this to you briefly using an example. Imagine you are traveling a long distance in your car. As you drive, you notice that your tank is slowly getting empty.

So that your car is ready for operation again, you quickly fill up the tank again. The same also happens after training. You burn a lot of energy during your workout. The intake of carbohydrates supports you at this very moment. Thanks to the carbohydrates ingested, energy reserves in the body can be quickly replenished (4).


Proteins, also known as proteins, are of great importance in a healthy diet. It is one of the most important energy suppliers in our body.

After your training session, especially after strength training, it is very important to eat protein-rich foods. This promotes and strengthens the build-up of new muscle fibers (2).

Did you know that our muscles are mainly made up of proteins? They are also referred to as amino acids.

What foods should we eat after exercise?

We now know that our post-exercise diet should consist of protein-rich foods and carbohydrates. But which foods meet these requirements?

In the following section, I would like to use a table to show you which foods are suitable after exercise and contain the desired nutrients.

Foods containing carbohydrates Foods containing proteins
brown rice lowfat quark
sweet potato chicken breast
quinoa legumes
Potato tuna
rice cake eggs
Fruit (banana, kiwi,..) Salmon

How much should we eat after exercising?

For a healthy diet, there are some guidelines that you can use as a guide to prepare your optimal meal. Regardless of your training session, a certain number of proteins and carbohydrates should be present in your meal (6).

In this section, I will briefly explain how much carbohydrate and protein you should consume after your workout.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) has determined that an adult should consume around 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (1).

This corresponds to an average of 57 g for men and 48 g for women. Depending on your sport, this guideline will look a little different. The guideline here is: 0.14 g to 0.23 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This can be explained as follows: Since you burn a lot of energy during your training session and protein is broken down in the muscles, your body needs more protein than usual after training (7). When consuming carbohydrates, 6 to 10 g per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended.

Depending on the intensive endurance training, the 10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight should be adhered to in any case. As a result, the energy stores can be replenished and regeneration can take place in the body. For an adult man weighing 80 kg, this corresponds to 480 – 800 g of carbohydrates per day.

When should we eat after exercise?

After training, it is important for the body to eat a meal that contains nutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins. But is there a right time to increase your post-exercise meal?

Yes indeed. It is recommended to eat the meal, which consists of foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins, 45 minutes after exercise. The burnt energy reserves can thus be replenished quickly.

Mixture of carbohydrates and proteins

The right amount of carbohydrates and protein belong in every meal (Ella Olsson / Unsplash)

What foods are safe for losing weight and building muscle?

When putting together your meal, the following criterion is essential: your training goal. Do you train because you would like to lose weight or because you would like to build muscle?

Because depending on the training goal, the composition of the meals also differs. If you would like to lose weight, you should make sure that the protein content is higher than the carbohydrate content (8).

When it comes to building muscle, things are a little different. Here you should make sure that your meal consists of 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 30% fat of the daily calories. Which foods are suitable for losing weight and building muscle are shown in the list below:

foods for weight loss Foods for muscle building
broccoli oatmeal
whole wheat spaghetti Muesli
zucchini pumpkin
peach dates
almond grapes
Kohlrabi rice
hummus sweet potato

Should we eat more on the days we exercise?

One often asks oneself whether one should eat more after exercise. Basically, the answer to the question is YES. Because the more you move, the more energy you use. You should compensate for the loss of energy after exercise with a healthy diet.

But your daily calorie needs ultimately depend on how much you move. In order to find out how many calories you should be consuming every day, we have to calculate the calorie turnover, calorie turnover, total turnover, calorie deficit and your need to lose weight.

You don't really know much about the terms? Then take a look at the explanations in the section below.

Calorie basal metabolic rate:

With the calorie basal metabolic rate, the calorie consumption of your body in a resting state is determined, which you consume without any special effort. Because even without any movement, the body consumes energy. For example for blood circulation and respiration.

In summary, we can say that the calorie expenditure calculates the minimum number of calories that you should gain. If you are below this value, your body will notice this quickly and give you appropriate signals.

Calorie performance conversion:

The performance conversion can be explained as follows: It is the energy that our body needs in addition to the basal conversion. This includes physical and mental activities. The following points must be taken into account when determining the power consumption:

  • Profession
  • Sports
  • Sleep
  • rest breaks
  • other activities

Total calorie turnover

The total calorie turnover determines your daily calorie requirement. It consists of the calorie basal metabolic rate and the calorie output turnover.

calorie deficit

The daily number of calories depends on your training goal. Do you want to lose weight or rather build muscle? Depending on the training goal, this varies. If you want to lose weight, you should consume calories that are below your total calorie expenditure.

Make sure that your calorie deficit is no more than 500 kcal per day. Would you like to build muscle? Then you should consume 300 - 500 kcal more than your total calorie turnover.

Would you like to calculate your calorie deficit for yourself? Then have a look here:

need to lose weight

The weight loss requirement is the difference between the total calorie expenditure and the calorie deficit. It gives you the number of calories that are essential for you depending on your training goal.

Once you've figured out your daily calorie needs for your training goal, you can plan your meal for the day accordingly.

It is not important that you stick to the daily calorie requirement 100%, but that your body is supplied with plenty of energy on the days when you move a lot.

What should vegetarians eat after exercise?

There are often prejudices in connection with sport and vegetarian nutrition. This includes statements such as "Those who eat vegetarian food cannot build muscle". Top athletes have proven just the opposite. Despite their vegetarian diet, they were able to build muscle.

The vegetarian diet should be balanced and contain certain nutrients. Vegetarian cuisine offers you protein sources that provide you with the necessary amino acids. Vegetarians can eat the following foods after exercise:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
  • tofu
  • potatoes and grain
  • Dairy products
  • dried fruit
  • eggs
  • whole grain products
  • Vegetable oils and fats

What should be considered for a healthy diet after exercise?

Once you have set your training goal, you should pay attention to two criteria:

  • Training session - What is the best way to train to achieve my goal?
  • Healthy eating - how do I eat right?

If you have adjusted the two points to you, then nothing stands in the way of your training goal. In the following section I would like to give you the points to pay attention to and the ones to avoid.

  1. Carbohydrates and proteins: Sufficient carbohydrates and proteins are the be-all and end-all after a workout. After training, make sure that you eat enough carbohydrates and proteins.
  2. Drink water: Drinking water is very important during and after training. Since our body loses water and sodium during exercise, we need to replenish sodium requirements by drinking water (3).
  3. Restful sleep: After an intensive workout, you should give your body a break. As a result, your body gains strength and can show full operational readiness again for the next workout.
  4. Easily digestible food: After training, the feeling of hunger is usually very great. Choose foods that are easy to digest, such as B. salad, vegetables or fish.
  5. Stay away from sweets and fast food: After training, you usually want to reward yourself with something small. Mostly with sweets and fast food products. But these are very counterproductive for your workout. If you want to reward yourself with something small, then reach for fresh fruit.
  6. Don't starve: Many people have the thought "If I don't eat, I'm sure I won't gain weight?" However, this is wrong. Especially after training, our body needs enough nutrients to build muscle. Make sure you eat enough carbohydrate- and protein-rich foods after your workout.
  7. Alcohol? No thanks : It's best not to add alcohol to your post-workout list. It supplies the body with unnecessary extra calories that we don't need (10).


If you have firmly decided to achieve your training goal, then healthy nutrition after intensive training is indispensable. In short, the workout alone is not sufficient to achieve the training goal.

With a healthy diet consisting of proteins and carbohydrates, new energy for the regeneration of the body can be built up (9).

During the training process, the body loses a lot of energy, which it has to build up again after a short time. Especially if you want to build muscle, the calorie content should be higher than the calorie expenditure.

How you organize your meals is entirely up to you. Depending on the training goal, there are different focal points that you should keep an eye on.


  1. German Society for Nutrition (DGE/2017):Presse (2017), DGE publishes new reference values ​​for protein,
  2. Chesley A, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, Smith K. Changes in human muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1992 Oct;73(4):1383-8. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1992.73.4.1383. PMID: 1280254.
  3. American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka MN, Burke LM, Eichner ER, Maughan RJ, Montain SJ, Stachenfeld NS. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Feb;39(2):377-90. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597. PMID: 17277604.
  4. Haslbeck M. Diet and civilization diseases--carbohydrate aspects. Wien Med Wochenschr Suppl. 1990;106:suppl 7-10. German. PMID: 2171232.
  5. Ivy JL. Glycogen resynthesis after exercise: effect of carbohydrate intake. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S142-5. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-971981. PMID: 9694422.
  6. Costill DL. Carbohydrate nutrition before, during, and after exercise. Fed Proc. 1985 Feb;44(2):364-8. PMID: 3967778.
  7. Schoenfeld, BJ, Aragon, AA How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10 (2018).
  8. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, Aragon AA, Devries MC, Banfield L, Krieger JW, Phillips SM. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608. Epub 2017 Jul 11. Erratum in: Br J Sports Med. 2020 Oct;54(19):e7. PMID: 28698222; PMCID: PMC5867436.
  9. Pallavi R, Giorgio M, Pelicci PG. Insights into the beneficial effect of caloric/ dietary restriction for a healthy and prolonged life. front phys. 2012 Aug 9;3:318. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00318. PMID: 22934068; PMCID: PMC3429088.
  10. Sports people warned: alcohol will affect performance; Created: 14/01/2009 |
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