What to Eat After a Workout to Lose Weight?

First off, calorie intake has to be lower than calorie usage for weight loss to occur. At least in terms of real stored mass, whether that is fat or muscle. Water weight doesn't necessarily count in this regard. So, when it comes to deciding what to eat after a workout to lose weight, we make sure it is within your calorie allowance for the day. There are some variables to that, see the thermic effect of food (protein calories actually take a bit more to digest than fats etc), but managing the calorie balance should be first and foremost. 

Secondly we'll want to look at something that is going to keep us full after a workout, stopping us from snacking later or going off diet. This will generally be something that's high protein. [1]

We will also ideally want something that helps keep our energy levels up, as it's normal to move less after we workout, lowering your caloric burn through the day as your body compensates, especially whilst dieting. [2]

Next it's important that we should consider is that it's important to try to retain muscle whilst losing weight (in most cases) and again making sure to hit your protein requirements for muscle maintainance (and getting a little extra when restricting calories). The rule of thumb is a minimum of 1g per 2lbs of body weight per day. [3] Not only does muscle use more calories to maintain than fat, but the goal for most people should be to lose fat, rather than simply weight.

Now as a fiinal point, before we get down to the details, if you have a hard time restricting calories, then achieving that is more important for weight loss than having a good post workout meal, so depending on when you have your workout and what works for you, don't worry too much about having one. There is a lot of info in health and fitness when it comes to working out and weight loss. 

For example it is technically most effective to split eating between meals to 5 meals a day for muscle retention and weight loss, but it doesn't work for everyone in the real world. If having a meal after working out is ineffective for your calorie restriction that's fine. In this case, a protein shake or bar can also be good, if you have the spare 100-250kcal and feel like it can help stop you snacking or crashing later.

Now, onto the why eating after a workout can help.

The Importance of Post-Workout Nutrition

After a workout, your body is in a state of recovery. During exercise, your muscles use up glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrates, for energy. Additionally, muscle proteins may be damaged and broken down. Consuming the right nutrients after a workout helps replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle proteins, and promote muscle growth.

Research shows that post-workout nutrition can enhance muscle protein synthesis, the process responsible for repairing and building new muscle tissue. [4] By providing your body with the necessary nutrients, you can optimize the recovery process and maitnain and build muscle mass whilst you support your weight loss goals.

The Macronutrients for Weight Loss

To create a balanced post-workout meal, you need to include the right combination of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Each macronutrient serves a specific purpose in your body's recovery process and weight loss journey. [5]

Protein - Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. It provides the building blocks, called amino acids, that your body needs to rebuild damaged muscle proteins and create new muscle tissue. Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout can help preserve lean muscle mass while promoting fat loss.

Good sources of protein for post-workout meals include eggs, Greek yogurt, chicken breast, salmon, and plant-based options like tofu and lentils. Aim to include around 20-30 grams of protein in your post-workout meal to maximize muscle recovery and support weight loss.

Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your muscles during exercise. Replenishing your glycogen stores after a workout is essential for optimal recovery. The amount of carbohydrates you need depends on the intensity and duration of your workout. High-intensity exercises, such as interval training or weightlifting, deplete glycogen stores more rapidly than low-intensity activities like walking or yoga.

Choose complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, and whole grains, as they provide a steady release of energy and are rich in fiber. Including carbohydrates in your post-workout meal helps restore glycogen levels, maintain energy levels, and support muscle recovery.

Healthy Fats - While fats are not as crucial immediately after a workout as protein and carbohydrates, they play a role in overall health and satiety. Including a small amount of healthy fats in your post-workout meal can help you feel satisfied and prevent overeating later in the day.

Sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These fats provide essential fatty acids and promote the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. However, keep in mind that fats are calorie-dense, so moderation is key when incorporating them into your post-workout meal.

Top Foods for Post-Workout Weight Loss

Now that you understand the importance of macronutrients, let's explore some of the best foods to include in your post-workout meal for weight loss.

Eggs - Eggs are a versatile and nutrient-dense food that provides high-quality protein. They contain all the essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth. Additionally, eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Try incorporating eggs into your post-workout meal by making a veggie omelette. Include colorful vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms for added nutrients and flavor. Pair the omelette with a side of whole-grain toast for a balanced meal.

Greek Yogurt - Greek yogurt is a protein-packed option that also contains beneficial probiotics. It provides a complete source of protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. Greek yogurt is also rich in calcium, which is essential for bone health.

Enjoy Greek yogurt as a standalone snack or incorporate it into a post-workout parfait. Layer Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a sprinkle of granola for added crunch and fiber.

Chicken Breast - Chicken breast is a lean source of protein that is low in fat and calories. It is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals like iron and zinc. Consuming chicken breast after a workout can support muscle repair and growth.

Grill or bake chicken breast and serve it with a side of quinoa and steamed vegetables for a well-rounded post-workout meal. Quinoa is a nutrient-dense grain that provides both protein and carbohydrates, making it an excellent choice for recovery.

Quinoa - Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is rich in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients. It is a complete source of protein, making it an ideal option for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa also contains complex carbohydrates, which can help replenish glycogen stores after a workout.

Use quinoa as a base for a protein-packed salad. Combine cooked quinoa with vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and roasted chickpeas. Drizzle with a light dressing made with olive oil and lemon juice for added flavor.

Salmon - Salmon is a fatty fish that provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. These healthy fats can help reduce muscle soreness and support overall recovery. Salmon is also rich in protein, making it ideal for post-workout meals.

Grill or bake a salmon fillet and serve it with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Sweet potatoes provide complex carbohydrates, while broccoli adds vitamins and fiber to your meal.

Sweet Potatoes - Sweet potatoes are a nutritious carbohydrate source that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They provide sustained energy and help replenish glycogen stores after a workout. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that can aid in muscle recovery.

Roast sweet potato wedges in the oven and pair them with a lean protein source, such as grilled chicken or tofu. Add a side of steamed leafy greens, like spinach or kale, for added nutrients.

Leafy Greens - Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are low in calories and high in fiber, making them an excellent addition to a post-workout meal for weight loss.

Include leafy greens in a protein-packed smoothie or add them to a salad with lean protein sources like grilled chicken or shrimp. Leafy greens provide essential nutrients while adding volume and satiety to your meal.

Berries - Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are rich in antioxidants and fiber. They provide natural sweetness and add vibrant colors to your post-workout meal. Berries are low in calories and can satisfy your sweet cravings without derailing your weight loss efforts.

Enjoy a bowl of mixed berries with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sprinkle them over oatmeal for a nutrient-packed post-workout snack.

Hydration for Optimal Recovery

Hydration is often overlooked but is a crucial component of post-workout recovery. During exercise, you lose fluids through sweat, and it's essential to replenish those lost fluids to maintain optimal performance and support overall recovery. [7]

Water is the best choice for hydration, as it is calorie-free and essential for numerous bodily functions. Aim to drink water before, during, and after your workout to stay adequately hydrated. The exact amount of water you need depends on factors such as your body weight, exercise intensity, and climate.

If you engage in prolonged or intense workouts, consider adding electrolytes to your water to replenish minerals lost through sweat. Electrolytes help maintain proper fluid balance and support muscle function. You can find electrolyte-enhanced water or make your own electrolyte drink using natural sources like coconut water and a pinch of sea salt.

Timing Your Post-Workout Meal

The timing of your post-workout meal can impact your recovery and weight loss goals. Ideally, you should consume your post-workout meal within 30 minutes to two hours after exercise. This timeframe is known as the "anabolic window" when your body is most receptive to nutrient absorption and muscle repair. [7]

If you prefer to eat a full meal after your workout, aim to do so within the two-hour window. However, if you find it challenging to eat a meal immediately after exercise, it's important to prioritize protein and carbohydrates to kick-start the recovery process. Consider consuming a protein shake or a small snack that provides a combination of protein and carbohydrates.

Remember that individual needs may vary, and it's essential to listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues. If you're not hungry immediately after a workout, you can still consume a post-workout meal within the two-hour window to optimize recovery.

Example Post-Workout Meals for Weight Loss

Here are three sample post-workout meals that incorporate the recommended foods and macronutrients for weight loss:

Option 1: Veggie Omelette


  • 2 whole eggs
  • Mixed vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms)
  • 1 slice of whole-grain toast


  • Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add the mixed vegetables.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and pour the egg mixture.
  • Cook until the eggs are set, then fold the omelette in half.
  • Toast the whole-grain bread and serve it alongside the omelette.

Option 2: Greek Yogurt Parfait


  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • Mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1/4 cup of granola


  • In a bowl or glass, layer Greek yogurt, mixed berries, and granola.
  • Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used.
  • Enjoy the parfait immediately or refrigerate for later.

Option 3: Grilled Chicken with Quinoa and Steamed Vegetables


  • Grilled chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • Steamed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower)


  • Grill or bake the chicken breast until cooked through.
  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  • Steam the vegetables until tender.
  • Serve the grilled chicken with quinoa and steamed vegetables.

Feel free to customize these meals according to your preferences and dietary needs. Remember to adjust portion sizes based on your individual calorie and macronutrient goals.

Avoiding Common Post Workout Meal Mistakes

To ensure you're getting the most out of your post-workout nutrition for weight loss, avoid these common mistakes:

Skipping the Post-Workout Meal

One common mistake is skipping the post-workout meal altogether. While it's understandable that you may not always have time to eat immediately after a workout, fueling your body with the right nutrients is essential for recovery and weight loss. If you don't have time for a full meal, opt for a quick and easily digestible snack, such as a protein shake or a piece of fruit.

Consuming High-Calorie, Unhealthy Foods

Another mistake is reaching for high-calorie, unhealthy foods after a workout. While it's tempting to reward yourself with indulgent treats, these choices can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Instead, focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide the necessary fuel for recovery without excessive calories.

Neglecting Hydration

Hydration is often overlooked but is crucial for optimal recovery. Make sure to drink enough water before, during, and after your workout. If you engage in intense or prolonged exercise, consider replenishing electrolytes to maintain proper fluid balance.

Additional Tips for Weight Loss

In addition to post-workout nutrition, here are some other tips to support your weight loss journey:

  • Stay consistent with your exercise routine and aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training.
  • Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
  • Control portion sizes to ensure you're consuming an appropriate amount of calories for weight loss.
  • Incorporate mindful eating practices, such as eating slowly, paying attention to hunger and fullness cues, and avoiding distractions while eating.
  • Get adequate sleep, as sleep deprivation can affect hunger hormones and lead to overeating.
  • Manage stress levels through activities like meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy.

Remember that weight loss is a journey, and progress may vary from person to person. Focus on making sustainable lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes, and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

What to Eat After a Workout for Weight Loss?

What you eat after a workout can significantly impact your weight loss efforts and help you maintain muscle whilst doing it. By incorporating the right balance of macronutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, you can optimize muscle recovery and support your weight loss goals. Choose nutrient-dense foods like eggs, Greek yogurt, chicken breast, quinoa, salmon, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and berries to create satisfying and nourishing post-workout meals. Remember to hydrate adequately and time your post-workout meal within the anabolic window for optimal results. With these strategies in place, you'll be on your way to achieving your weight loss goals and maximizing your post-workout nutrition.


1 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23107521/

2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/

3 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852756/

4 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577439/

5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468865/

6 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23899752/

7 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30702982/

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