What Really Happens When You Don't Eat After a Workout?

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You might think that you're doing yourself a favor by not eating after a workout. You just burned a ton of calories, so it wouldn't make sense to eat them all back, right? WRONG! Eating after a workout can make or break your weight loss success.

First, it's important to understand what kind of foods you should eat after a workout. Your body just burned a ton of energy in the form of carbohydrates and amino acids (which build muscle!), so it's super important to get those back so that your body can recover. Franklin Antoian, founder of iBodyFit.com, says that you need to eat a quickly-digestible meal or snack of protein and carbs. Carbs replace the energy you burned, and protein repairs tissue and builds muscle.

Antoian says to try a protein shake made up of protein powder, water or almond milk, and fruit or honey.

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Another important thing to remember? Timing is everything when it comes to refueling after a workout. Dr. Matt Tanneburg says your body has 30 minutes to capitalize on your amped-up metabolism.

"After a workout, your metabolism stays revved for another couple of hours," Dr. Tanneburg says. "That means that you are burning more calories after your workout than you normally do throughout the day. If you don't replenish your body with nutrition, your body will naturally start consuming your protein stores. You want to make sure to eat within that 30-minute window in order to have your body recovery and replenish as it should."

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What happens if you miss that 30-minute window? Your body will draw fuel from your glycogen stores (your already existing stores of carbs and protein) and could slow down recovery by a few days rather than a few hours. You'll be sore and tired longer, which means you won't be able to train as hard during your next workout, which means you won't be able to burn as many calories. (The exact opposite of what you want to do!)

The bottom line that eating simple carbs and protein is incredibly important when it comes to replenishing your body after a workout. "Starving yourself is never the answer to effective weight loss," says Triathlon Hacks contributor and physical trainer Charlotte Campbell. "Also, eating junk food because you think you have 'earned it' will also not do you any favors."


Pack a protein bar or whip up a smoothie! Your waistline will thank you in the long run.


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