A sports dietitian says that this is the one thing you should prioritize eating after your workout—and it's not protein

Restore your depleted energy stores with a healthy dose of carbohydrates

High protein smoothie bowl
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Post-workout snacking is a controversial topic, with some saying you just need to chug a protein shake while others recommend eating a full, nutritionally complete meal. As with a lot of things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle and depends on the sort of training you are undertaking. 

Jessica Isaacs, a sports dietitian, has cut through some of the confusion and explained exactly what you need to eat after a workout. 

Despite the hype around muscle-building protein shakes, she says that you need to prioritize carbs in your post-workout snack. She suggests aiming for a 3:1 ratio, consuming at least 45-60g of carbs alongside 15-20g of protein. 

What to eat after a workout

Do you need carbs to build muscle?

Protein provides the amino acids your body needs to repair and rebuild your muscles after a workout, but carbohydrates play a big role in building strength, too. 

"Carbohydrates are an essential part of muscle development as they provide the energy required for strength training, while preventing fatigue during workouts," said registered associate nutritionist Egzona Makolli, speaking previously with Fit&Well.

So if you want to have enough energy to keep lifting weights at the gym, then you need to eat adequate amounts of carbohydrate. 

There's also a theory that combining carbs with your protein intake could increase the speed at which amino acids are transported round the body, but there's a lack of studies backing this up. 

How long should you wait before having your post-workout snack?

The timing of your nutrient intake is much less important than making sure you consume adequate amounts of protein and carbs across your day.

So it's really up to you whether or not you fancy consuming some food straight after exercise—but you may find that it helps maintain your energy levels.

If you're looking for ideas, scroll through Isaacs snack suggestions above or try one of these post-workout smoothies.

Sorted for carbs but need an easy way to get your protein fix? Check out this guide to the best protein powders, over on our sister site Coach

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for Space.com and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.

Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.