Recharge Your Body : Food & Drink For After Exercise

There are 3 main things to consider after exercise:

1.)   Hydration

2.)   Carbohydrate

3.)   Protein


Now in what order you do this isn’t a massive concern, but it’s good practice to drink plenty of fluid straight after (see ‘Staying Hydrated & Motivated’) in order to recover and maximise your brain function. Fluid also helps to flush toxins out of the body that were built up during exercise, so aim to replace all fluids lost after exercise within 1-2 hours for optimal recovery.


Carbohydrate is important for before, during and after exercise, professional athletes will get their carbs in from an isotonic drink during exercise, and can re-fill their glycogen stores (stored glucose) with a combination of fast, moderate and slow releasing carbs in the hours after exercise. Blood sugar levels will be low after exercise so a quick absorbing carb is required after exercise, so opt for a piece of fruit around 10-15mins after exercise, followed by a more complex carb approximately 30-60mins after.

Simple Carbs

  • Fruit & Veg
  • Small glass of fruit juice
  • Small glass of milk
  • Rice cakes with sliced banana

Complex Carbs

  • Pasta (white or brown are fine)
  • Rice (white or brown)
  • Granary bread
  • Potato
  • Sweet potato


One of the most important nutrients for after exercise is protein. Without adequate protein your muscles will not recover and will struggle to grow. You will ache more after exercise and the risk of injuries will increase because of poor muscle repair. A liquid form of protein is ideal immediately after exercise:

  • A glass of milk will provide some simple carbs as well as delivering around 7g of high quality protein in one drink
  • Whey Protein shake with milk or water
  • A fruit, milk and oat smoothie with a scoop of whey protein will provide antioxidants and phytochemicals needed to protect your body, as well as the all important slower releasing carbs and protein!

You can even add a tablespoon of natural or fruit youghurt to the smoothie to further increase the protein and carbs.

Evening meals for after exercise

The same rule applies…keep the fluid levels up (water, squash or green tea/black tea), whilst making sure an evening meal contains good amounts of protein and complex (starchy) carbohydrates with plenty of vegetables. Portion sizes are important here too, so remember to keep your carb portion to a loosely clenched fist size, and the protein to roughly the same size as the palm of your hand for red meats, and the length of your hand for chicken and fish.

Meal ideas

Meal 1

Grilled chicken, sweet potato & mixed vegetables

Meal 2

Cod or baked Pollock, mashed potato & mixed vegetables

Meal 3

Foil baked salmon, brown or white rice & asparagus with light soy sauce

Meal 4

Steak mince fajitas with wholemeal wraps, peppers and onions

Meal 5

Moroccan stew with chick peas, lentils and mixed vegetables

REMEMBER…these post- workout meals actually become your pre- workout meals for the next day of exercise, meaning they are re-fuelling you for recovery purposes, but also to get you in gear ready for the next day!

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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