What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight

  • 2 Minutes Read
Martha M. Henze
Martha M. Henze, MPH, MS, RDN - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Global Public Health Epidemiologist

Do you try to squeeze in a 30-60 minute workout most days of the week? Do you work hard during exercise? If so, don't destroy your efforts by eating back the calories!

What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight

What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight

Do you try to squeeze in a 30-60 minute workout most days of the week? Do you work hard during exercise sessions to burn calories and tone your body? If so, don't destroy your efforts to lose weight by eating high calorie energy bars, gels, and flavored beverages during and after exercising. A typical sports drink can contain 250 calories. It takes me 30 minutes of fast walking to burn 250 calories!

Many of my weight loss clients have excellent exercise and eating plans in place and wonder why they still are not losing weight. After completing this post exercise snack comparison and becoming aware of the calories in many well-marketed "healthy" foods, they know why.

What about yourself? Have you ever calculated how many calories are in that scoop of protein powder or in that energy bar?

3 steps to determine what to eat after a workout

Step 1

Add up the food and beverage calories you consume during and after a workout. If you go out for a post celebratory brew with friends after a bicycle ride, don't forget to include those calories.

Step 2

Calculate how many calories you burned during your workout after logging your exercise.

Step 3

Compare the two numbers. Which one is smaller? Which one is bigger?

Of course, I do not want you to become obsessed with these two numbers. It is more important to see if you are within your daily calorie count for the day. However, awareness of calories can help you improve your post workout beverage and food choices.

What to eat after a workout to lose weight

Most people are very hungry after a workout and want to eat everything in sight. Thus, it is important to plan a healthy snack. One of my clients used to reward herself with a 500 calorie milkshake after a 250 calorie workout because she believed she deserved it. Don't fall into the calorie trap of allowing yourself to eat anything and any amount that you want just because you exercised.

1. Start by drinking water

If you are trying to lose weight, choose water alone. If you need a little flavor, pour 1/8 cup of juice into your 16 oz. water bottle. Do not defeat your weight loss goals by drinking your calories during and after exercising.

Note: If you exercise 90 minutes or more (and it is intense continuous exercise), there may be some need for the extra nutrients and calories from energy bars, gels and sports drinks; however, if you go for a 30 minute walk do not fool yourself by thinking you need a sports drink afterwards.

2. Eat a healthy snack

A healthy snack consists of mainly carbohydrates with small amounts of lean protein and healthy fats. Print out this post workout healthy snacks handout (HealthySnacks) for many easy and quick carbohydrate and protein combinations. Bring this handout to the grocery store for your shopping list. Also, try these healthy delicious options:

Research demonstrates that those who exercise on a consistent basis have a greater chance of maintaining weight loss. Thus, plan ahead and make healthy post workout snack choices to help meet your weight loss goals.

Originally published on 8 July 2014,
Updated: 28 October 2019

Exercise->Fueling for Exercise Exercise->Tips
Oct 28, 2019

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