The 15 Best Post-Workout Carbs

post-workout carbs

Recharge your body and get back in the game! These post-workout carbs will help you recover after a grueling workout.

Nourishing your body with the right food is critical for a successful workout, recovery, and progress. Protein, fats, and carbohydrates are the three key macronutrients. But carbohydrates are especially important. They are your body’s primary fuel, supplying the vitality to push through your exercise, restoring depleted energy stores, and enhancing muscle repair.

Why Carbs Matter

Your carb requirements depend on the kind, intensity, and duration of your exercise, body size and composition, and individual objectives. Some carbs are full of fiber and nutrients that offer long-term energy and maintain blood sugar levels. Others are more quickly absorbed and give your body a rapid injection of glycogen, which aids muscle building and repair.

Have you ever wondered what provides fuel to your body when you exercise? It’s glycogen! This fantastic energy source is made from glucose molecules bound together in long chains. It is stored in your muscles and liver. During physical activity, your body uses glycogen stores to power your activity. It’s essential for providing energy to your muscles when you lift weights, run, bike, or perform other actions, as well as for your brain and spinal cord.

After a challenging workout, replenish your glycogen levels with carbs to maximize your muscle growth! Eating carbs triggers insulin production, which acts as a delivery worker, sending nutrients to your cells. This helps reduce muscle soreness and inflammation so you can go back to the gym and dominate your next workout.

What Carbs Should You Eat After a Workout?

After you’ve worked up a sweat at the gym, your body is especially ready to receive nutrients to help it repair tissues. You have up to 48 hours to take advantage of this window, but the first two hours after training are particularly beneficial for getting the most out of your post-workout carbs. So make sure you take advantage of it!

Here are 15 of the best carbs to meet your post-workout needs!

1. Bread

Need an excellent post-workout carb option? Look no further than bread! Whole and refined grain bread products are both great choices – they’re high on the glycemic index, meaning your blood glucose levels will quickly spike after eating them. Foods with a GI score under 55 are low GI, while anything above 70 is considered high GI.

If you’re looking to build muscle and repair tissue, a shot of glucose from high-GI foods can help kickstart the process. Those with diabetes or who are more sedentary may do better with low GI foods, but for the rest, higher GI food can help you get the results you want.

Opting for whole grain options with a lower glycemic index can provide essential nutrients that can help you recover faster, such as manganese, selenium, calcium, and thiamine. However, these will not offer a similar insulin spike.

2. Waffles and Pancakes

Pancakes and waffles make an incredible, delicious post-workout carb! These flour-based breakfast staples can boost your blood sugar and provide the perfect platform for adding other nutritious additions like fruit, protein powder, and yogurt.

Give your muscles the nourishment they need after your workout with a delicious protein-packed pancake or waffle. Of course, you can make it yourself using wheat or oat flour and topping it with fresh fruit. Or, if you’re looking for an easier option, you can always pick up a healthy pancake mix. Gluten-free? No problem – give cassava flour waffles a try!

3. Rice Cakes

Bodybuilders love rice cakes due to their low-calorie, carb-rich nature – and the wide range of flavors available. Plus, they score between 60 and 90 on the glycemic index. Make your post-workout snack tastier by topping it with fresh fruit, jam, honey, or Greek yogurt.

4. Crackers

Crispy, crunchy crackers such as stoned wheat thins and rye crispbread make for a delicious snack-sized post-workout carb boost to replenish your glycogen stores. To make it even more muscle-building, add some high-protein toppings – insulin helps shuttle the protein into your muscle cells!

Liven up your snacking with crackers topped with chicken, chickpea or tuna salad, boiled eggs, or bean dip!

5. Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast cereal is often considered to be packed with sugar and devoid of nutrition. Still, it can actually be a part of a balanced diet. Cereal is cheap and nutritionally rich, particularly since it’s fortified with essential vitamins and minerals like folate and iron.

Steer clear of trendy high protein and fiber cereals since getting these nutrients from whole foods is a more budget-friendly and feasible option. Instead, opt for classic whole-grain cereals for your post-exercise carbs. Give puffed wheat, shredded wheat, and brown puffed rice cereal a try.

6. Cream of Wheat

Fuel your body with cream of wheat post-workout and reap the rewards! This high-GI food is made from finely processed farina wheat. It contains essential nutrients, such as iron and several B vitamins. Top with filtered high-protein milk and fresh fruit to increase your recovery benefits. Enjoy!

7. Oatmeal

Delicious, nourishing, and quick to make, oatmeal is one of the top carbohydrate-based breakfast meals after your workout. It contains essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and selenium. It is also high in dietary fiber and protein.

Give your post-workout routine an upgrade with this delicious, nutrient-packed oatmeal recipe! For a delightful treat, top your oatmeal with fresh fruit, a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, crunchy nuts, and creamy Greek yogurt.

8. Rice

Rice is a staple food worldwide, and for a good reason! Not only does it provide carbs and fiber, but it also contains important nutrients such as iron, thiamin, and manganese. White rice has a high GI score of 70, while brown rice is slightly lower at 68 and contains more fiber and nutrients.

Got aching muscles after a workout? Magnesium, found in white and brown rice, might be the answer! This essential nutrient helps support your muscles, nerves, and bones. In addition, it can help with muscle relaxation and is lost in sweat during tough or long workouts, so make sure to replenish it afterward!

9. Millet

Millet is an excellent post-workout food that’s worth adding to your meal. It’s gluten-free and high in GI, protein, and essential minerals like magnesium and manganese. Use millet in salads, grain bowls, or as a great companion to seafood dishes. It’s an exciting twist to your after-training meal.

10. Pasta

Pasta and noodles make the perfect post-workout meal! You’ll have plenty of delicious options with wheat, rice, corn, cassava, and other grains as the base. So take your pick and add your favorite proteins and veggies for endless flavor combinations!

11. Bananas

After an intense workout, your body needs a quick source of energy and essential nutrients to refuel and repair. Ripe bananas are the perfect food for this, offering easily digested carbs and critical vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium.

Unlike unripened or barely ripe bananas, the ripe or overripe fruit’s sugar content is quickly absorbed into the body and replenishes your glycogen stores.

12. Melon

Filled with vitamins A and C and potassium, cantaloupe is a refreshing and hydrating fruit ideal after a workout. Its glycemic index is relatively high at 65 to 70. Experiment with combining it with savory elements such as zucchini and ham or in a smoothie with mint for an extra burst of flavor!

Watermelon is packed with vitamins and minerals and bursting with flavor! Enjoy this summertime favorite, which contains lycopene, vitamin C, and vitamin A. It’s a high GI fruit, with half of the sugar coming from fructose, one-quarter glucose, and less than one-quarter from sucrose. Enjoy a sweet and nutritious post-workout snack!

13. Mango

Looking for an easy post-workout snack? Mango is the perfect pick! This super flavorful fruit is incredibly versatile – you can eat it out of hand, in a smoothie, tossed into a chicken salad, made into ice pops, or as a sweet element in a curry. In addition, mango is packed with carbohydrates and vitamins A, E, and C, and mango helps reduce inflammation that can cause muscle soreness after a strenuous workout.

14. Potatoes

Fluffy, comforting white and sweet potatoes make the ideal post-workout carbs. Packed with essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6 and magnesium, they’re the perfect way to refuel your body after a workout. Studies have even shown that potatoes can be just as effective as energy gels in keeping your energy levels up during exercise. So, if you’re looking for an all-natural, whole-food carb source to refuel after a workout, potatoes are a great choice!

15. Beets

Beets are a stellar sidekick for your training! Studies have shown that beets can boost cardiorespiratory performance, helping you power through endurance workouts. Plus, they’re the perfect post-workout carb because they are a great source of natural sugars and inflammation-fighting phytonutrients. And if that wasn’t enough, research has shown that beets can help aid muscle recovery and reduce post-workout pain, especially after intense exercise like sprinting.

What Post-Workout Carb is Best For You?

Trying to decide on the best post-workout carb? Go with what you enjoy the most! It is more fun and will help you build healthy habits that you can stick with.

After a hard workout, give your body a natural sugar boost! Eating natural sugars can help speed up your recovery and even help you build muscle. So try it out and feel the difference!

Looking to improve gut health and stay satisfied with your meals? Choose high-fiber, slow-digesting carbs like starches and fiber to balance weight, boost meal satiety, and improve heart health and digestion. For an extra boost after a strenuous or prolonged workout, opt for high-glycemic carbs to support muscle growth.

Are you not sure how many carbs you should be consuming? Try our calorie calculator to help you decide!

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