Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue Health & Wellness

Post-Workout Nutrition

Eating after a workout can be a challenge on shift. Before you run on to your next task, be sure to fuel up. In order to recover appropriately, the energy burned from exercise needs to be replaced. A good post workout meal replaces the carbohydrates burned during the workout and provides protein for optimal muscle growth. This article will break down quick ideas for eating after morning and evening workouts.

Early Morning Workouts

It can be tempting to skip a post-workout meal when calls start to drop. Try to have a go bag packed on the unit with protein bars/shakes, cereal, fig bars, or dried fruit. Have another snack or breakfast once you get back to the station.

To support muscle growth, ensure that your post-workout meal is high in protein. Protein helps with muscle recover and prevents loss of lean mass. A post-workout meal should also include carbohydrates to replace carbohydrates burned during the workout. 

Aim for a meal with 20-40 grams of protein post-workout. This can be include:

  • Oatmeal, whey protein, and fruit
  • Fruit and Greek yogurt
  • Rice cakes or toast with nut butter
  • Protein smoothie with fruit
  • Eggs with toast
  • Cottage cheese and whole 
  • Kodiak cake muffin cups
  • Egg white frittata bites (either homemade or frozen)

Evening Workouts

You’ve made it through most of the shift and a late workout, now it is time to finally eat! Consuming the right nutrients post-workout helps optimize your results. Eating enough protein ensures your muscles recover and gain strength. Eating enough carbohydrate allows your body to replaced carbohydrate stores burned during exercise.

Depending on calls, an evening workout may be before or after dinner. If the workout is before dinner, consider a small snack before than have a meal post-workout. If you eat dinner before, have a protein shake or small snack before bed.

  • Meal replacement shake or bar
  • Chicken burrito bowl
  • Turkey sandwich with fruit
  • Tuna or cheese and crackers 
  • Peanut butter toast

Again, try to focus on protein with some carbohydrates. Bonus points if you get a vegetable in! Any of the breakfast options mentioned above work as well. 

Don’t forget to drink at least 20 oz of water after your workout. This will help replace the water lost through sweat and breathing. Add some fruit to enhance flavor.

Do your best not to overeat or “reward” yourself after a particularly hard work out. For most people, a 500-700 calorie meal is more than enough. If you find yourself inhaling food after a workout, you may need a snack before the workout or something small in the car on the way home. It is okay to indulge slightly after a workout, just keep an eye on the portions to make sure you are in line with your weight loss goals.

Troubleshooting your Post-Workout Meal

  • Energy crash mid-morning or afternoon
    • Plan a high protein snack at this time (ex. cheese, yogurt, deli turkey, tuna).
    • Plan a small (8-16oz) cup of caffeinated coffee or tea. 
  • Overeating later in the day
    • Choose a higher fiber or higher protein breakfast.
    • Add 200-400 calories on workout days (consult with dietitian).
  • Binging on food/sweets at night 
    • Consider a post-workout protein shake to help curb hunger on the way home from your workout.
  • Too hungry to fall asleep
    • If you ate dinner but your stomach is rumbling before you fall asleep, consider a small snack to help. Cheese and crackers, fruit and yogurt, or even a quick protein shake are good options

If you feel ravenous or have low energy after your workout, consider working with a sports dietitian to schedule out your meals to optimize your energy levels during your workout. Dont forget to check out last month’s article for ideas on what to eat pre-workout

Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F 

Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.

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