Post-Exercise Meal Timing

Did you know that when you eat after working out, it matters?

It matters a lot! The ideal time to eat is 30 minutes after activity; the optimal window closes at two hours. Do you want muscle? Eat after exercise! If you don’t eat, the opposite happens – muscle loss. Why?

(1) Eating post-workout replenishes the energy stores drained during your activity. At the end of your workout, those stores are wide open. There’s no more satisfying time to consume calories! The body makes the most of food the moment you stop exercising. Even if you don’t feel hungry, consume something! Milk would be a good choice. Below, you’ll find out what’s best to eat and why milk, even chocolate milk, makes a good choice post-workout.

(2) Recovery! You may inhibit your recovery if you do not eat during the 2-hour window. Think of muscle repair and food as the building blocks. You must give your body the nutrients it needs to rebuild and recover. If you don’t, an injury may develop over prolonged deprivation.

What should you eat?

Carbs and Protein!

Carbs replenish the energy stores depleted during your activity. Muscles run on carbohydrates. For comparison’s sake, if muscles are your vehicle, then carbs are the gasoline fueling them. Performance declines with an inadequate intake of carbohydrate sources. Just like your car won’t run without gas, you won’t run too well starving yourself.

That being said, not all carbs are equal, … well, in terms of calories, yes, but health benefits, no. Calories from 1 gram of a carbohydrate food = 4 calories. But, surely you realize a whole grain source offers more health benefits by way of nutrients other than carbs than a cookie. Choose wisely. Exercising is not an excuse to eat junk.

Protein repairs. Protein is essential following high-intensity exercise and strength training. During these types of activity, micro tears occur. Micro tears are minor but necessary if your goal is building muscle and getting stronger. You know you’ve achieved micro tearing when you experience muscle soreness.

Here’s the cool thing about consuming protein immediately after working out — soreness will be less, and you will get stronger faster! Timing matters, it matters, it matters so much! Do not delay eating after working out!

Chocolate Milk

Low-fat or fat-free chocolate milk contains the perfect combination of carbs and protein for optimal recovery after exercise. Research backs this up. Athletes who drank sports drinks vs. low-fat chocolate milk had better muscle growth and energy replenished quicker.

Pritchett K, Pritchett R. Chocolate milk: a post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:127-134. doi: 10.1159/000341954. Epub 2012 Oct 15. PMID: 23075563.


You put in the hard work week after week. Don’t sabotage your effort by not fueling. Eating throughout the day and not skipping meals is essential for overall energy. But do not forget this important fact – you lose muscle when you don’t consume protein within two hours of working out. You build strength and recover faster if you consume protein and carbs in that 2-hour window. Set yourself up for success!