Why You Should Avoid Carbohydrates After Your Workout

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

No High-Carbohydrate Snacks After a Workout

Many people feel that they deserve a treat after a workout. However, the food you eat can negatively impact the effectiveness of your workout. A new study from the University of Massachusetts observed the effects of eating carbohydrate-heavy meals after a workout. They found that only high-caliber athletes required the quick energy of carbohydrates and that most people should focus on eating protein-rich foods instead.

Participants in this study were all young, had a body fat percentage greater than 25, and lived sedentary lifestyles. Each person completed a moderate workout and ate one of two different meals. One group ate a meal high in carbohydrates, while the other ate a low-carbohydrate meal.

The study found that eating a meal high in carbohydrates resulted in losing many of the benefits of the workout. However, eating a meal low in carbohydrates did not produce this outcome. The results of this study were published in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

What Not to Eat After a Workout

While many professional athletes consume sports drink and high-carbohydrate foods like energy bars following a workout, this is not recommended for the average person. Since professional athletes burn energy at an exceptionally high rate, due to an increased metabolism, they need the quick energy of a high-carbohydrate meal. However, for most people it is best to avoid any foods that are high in carbohydrates after exercise and instead focus on a meal high in protein.

Post-Workout Snack Ideas:

  • 1/2 cup trail mix
  • A smoothie made with milk
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • A hardboiled egg
  • 3/4 cup yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
  • Any fresh fruits or vegetables, like a banana or carrot sticks

The Bottom Line

Unless you are a high-performance athlete, you should not consume large quantities of carbohydrates after a workout. Sports drinks and energy bars, while tempting as a quick fix for hunger, are some of the worst choices for post-workout eating. Instead, aim to eat a protein-heavy meal that will not negate the benefits of the workout.


athletes, carbohydrate, exercise, post workout drinks, work out


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