Do You need to eat after your workout? The knee-jerk answer is “of course you need to eat after a workout! If you don’t you might seriously handicap your ability to recover!” You may not need to eat anything at all. The first reason is that your workout may not be a very big influence on your daily calorie and nutrition requirements. I would still consider someone to be pretty sedentary if they spend most of their time sitting in a car or at a desk even if they exercise 3-4 times a week. Sure, those workouts may be intense, but they don’t create much demand when you consider the big picture.
Your workout may not be long or hard enough to require much additional nutrition. Personally, I usually only eat more if I do activities that are over an hour.
This is especially true if you’re not very active outside your workout. If you sit in a car and at a desk most of the day your single workout may not create that much nutritional demand on your body.
You also may be eating soon after your workout through your normal diet. Chances are, you’re probably no more than an hour or two away from a regular meal once you finish your workout.
Lastly, you’ll want to be careful with post workout nutrition if your plan is to lose weight. You’ve just worked hard to burn a lot of calories, you don’t want to put them right back with a trip to the smoothie bar.
But don’t you need to eat afterward to recover?
The short answer is no, you don’t have to eat after a workout to recover. I promise you will recover no matter what your diet looks like, even if you don’t eat anything for the rest of the day. However, sometimes you may recover faster by eating something soon after your workout. The key is knowing if that’s right for you.
Hunger is a powerful sign that your body is asking for additional nutrition. If you feel very hungry soon after your workout, you may want to have something to eat.
You’ll also want to take the timing of your next workout into account. You probably don’t need to worry about optimal recovery when your next workout is a few days away. However, it might be a good idea to get something to eat if you have another workout or competition within 24 hours.
Finally, put more stock into post-exercise nutrition for workouts that last longer than 90 minutes.
To recap, post exercise nutrition may be more important if your workouts are pretty long or harsh, you’re hungry afterward and you need to recover as fast as possible. Outside of that, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting something to eat after a workout.