You did it! Another one in the books. You may not have wanted to pull it off, but you pushed through your day’s fatigue and devoted time to your workout today. The hard part is done! But now that the cells in your body are rejoicing and actively rebuilding, how can you help them build up your muscles better? In addition to rest, you must know what to eat to maintain muscle mass after your workout.

What to Eat to Maintain Muscle Mass After a Workout

Many believe that a workout builds muscle — so false. The truth is that what you do after your workout is what determines muscle mass. Think about it. A workout is meant to cause stress to your body so it can adapt to be stronger. But in order to adapt, you need to eat the right building materials to improve the structure. The question — which building materials are best to eat to maintain muscle mass after your workout?

According to Oregon State University, you should eat a lean meat with other high-fiber, high-water, low-fat foods after your choosemyplateworkout. In other words, following the USDA recommendations is appropriate even after your workout.

The lean meat and lots of water are probably the most important as the lean meat contains the protein necessary to rebuild muscle. Considering that muscle mass is about 70% water, consuming many glasses of water before, during and after your workout routine are also necessary. Water helps to digest and transfer proteins and other nutrients from your gut, through your bloodstream and to the muscle that is being repaired after your workout.

Muscles contain glycogen, which is the principle form of glucose (energy) storage in muscle. In order to replace burned glycogen, you have to eat foods that contain a significant amount of glucose. The finest glucose is in the form of complex carbohydrates, which is digested slowly. The slow digestion fuels the 2-3 day rebuilding process and replenishes loss glycogen in the muscle. While brown pastas, and rice are good options, fruits and vegetables are optimal. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, carbohydrates and contain many nutrients to support the rebuilding process and further health. 

Foods to Avoid

The worst thing you can do is go against the progress you made during your workout. Eating foods that do not promote recovery can cause you to work against yourself. Specifically, fatty foods, simple carbohydrates (candy, white rice, many processed foods, sodas and juices) can inhibit recovery and cause weight gain. In addition, it is advised to limit your alcohol intake after a workout.

The Answer — Post-Workout Foods

Now you know that you do not need to eat any “special” diet after your workout. Simply, follow USDA recommendations and eat what you should always be eating. It should be your mantra by now! “Half a plate of fruits and vegetables, a quarter plate of a lean meat, a quarter plate of a complex carbohydrate and nothing to drink but water, coffee or natural tea.”