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What To Eat After A Workout To Recover Faster

Want to know how to optimise your exercise recovery? Sports Nutritionist, Steph Lowe, shares with you her four-step formula for building the ideal meal to fuel your body, recover faster and get the results you are after.

Step 1: Start with two cups of predominately non-starchy vegetables with each meal

The hero of the majority of your meals should be non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, eggplant, mushrooms and kale. It is important to ‘eat the rainbow’ as the colour on your plate directly relates to the nutrient profile. The health benefits of non-starchy vegetables include:

  • Rich in vitamins A, C and K
  • High in antioxidants and therefore anti-inflammatory
  • High in phytochemicals
  • Natural fibre and therefore digestive support

Step 2: Add a serve quality protein

Such as a palm-size piece of meat, fish or tofu; three eggs or 1 cup of sprouted legumes. Just some of the significant health benefits of quality proteins include:

  • Muscle repair and recovery
  • Lean muscle mass development
  • Body fat reduction
  • Neurotransmitter production and therefore mood balance

When it comes to animal products, it is extremely important to consider quality as ‘you are what you eat eats’. Conditions such as pasture raised, free range and grass fed are important purchasing decisions as both the environment that animal is kept in and the quality of the food provided directly affects the meat and egg quality you consume. Minimising grain-fed animal protein is important as it would otherwise promote a high omega-6 and therefore inflammatory environment.

Step 3: Select a combination of healthy fats, at 2 tablespoons or half a large avocado.

When it comes to our current dietary guidelines, the demonisation of fat still exists. Fat will make you fat? Wrong. Fat will help you burn fat. Remember this mantra when old habits creep in or naysayers get in your ear – good quality fats provide nutrient density, satiety, hormonal control and an anti-inflammatory approach. Our two key groups of healthy fats are:


These are our anti-inflammatory fats, not to be confused with inflammatory omega-6s. Examples include avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and grass-fed animal products.

The health benefits of omega-3s include:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Improved memory and cognition
  • Increased skin integrity
  • Decreasing inflammation, which assists everything from bone strength to heart health

Saturated fats

Saturated fats include coconut oil, butter, ghee, MCT oil, animal fat and full-fat dairy (if tolerated).

Their health benefits include:

  • Provide the building blocks for our cell membranes and hormones
  • Act as a carrier for our important fat-soluble vitamins
  • A concentrated source of energy and therefore steadies blood sugar and insulin
  • Yes, saturated fats can help turn you into a fat-burning machine!

Step 4: Select wholefood carbohydrates, at ½-1 cup, relative to blood sugar control, carbohydrate tolerance and exercise intensity.

It is important to understand that non-starchy vegetables are wholefood carbohydrates, but they are much lower in grams of carbohydrate than bananas, apples or oranges; starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, potato or beetroot; and gluten-free grains such as quinoa, buckwheat or basmati rice.

Some of the key benefits of wholefood carbohydrates include:

  • Natural fibre and therefore digestive support
  • Fuel for glycolytic activity (e.g. high-intensity exercise)
  • Muscle glycogen replenishment
  • High levels of tryptophan, and therefore relaxation and improved sleep

The best time to include wholefood carbohydrates is to the meal that you eat within in the hour after high intensity exercise. If you have great blood sugar control and carbohydrate tolerance then you may benefit from additional serves per day so please do experiment with your meals and base your decision on factors including satiety, a reduction in cravings, increase exercise recovery and sleep quality.

If in doubt, remember real food is the best choice you can make. Food that comes out of the ground, off a tree or from an animal is the answer to your health, performance and longevity goals.

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