Do I need a snack after I work out?

Apr 13, 2016
This is a question that I hear frequently from people trying to lose weight or maintain their weight loss. Many fitness calculators even tell you to increase your calorie intake based on the physical activity that you perform. But is this appropriate? 

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), not necessarily. Determining if you need a post-workout recovery drink or snack depends on the exercise (intensity and duration) as well as your personal weight and fitness goals. And what you choose for your after-workout snack matters as well. Here are some tips to guide you.

1. If you didn't break a sweat or get your heart rate up, what your body really needs is water to rehydrate.

2. Even  a 15-30 minute cardiovascular or light strength training session does not deplete your muscles or blood sugar levels enough to justify a "recovery" snack.

3. If you exercise at moderate-high intensity for 90 minutes or more, a healthy snack should be consumed within 30 minutes.

So, a 15 minute leisurely walk does not justify a candy bar, if your goal is to lose weight and improve your health.

If you want to have a snack after a workout, it needs to count towards your daily caloric goal. Don't make the mistake of adding a 300 calorie mini-meal after a 45 minute zumba class.

Healthy snacks are a good balance of healthy carbohydrates (such as fruit) with about 15 grams of protein.

Here are some quick ideas:

- 2 ounces sliced turkey, 1 low fat string cheese, and 1/2 apple
- 1 small protein shake (100 calories and 15 grams protein) with 1/2 banana
- 6 ounces fat free, no sugar added Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup berries
- 2 hard boiled eggs, a small handful of baby carrots and 2 tbsp hummus

Questions or comments? Email me at Marlena Farley, RD, LD 

Post Workout Snack
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