Should You Eat Carbs After a Workout?

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Ask the Get-Fit Guy: Should You Eat Carbs After a Workout?

Q: Listener Rosalie recently wrote in with a great question that's just a little too long for this newsletter. But here's the simpler version: Why should you eat carbohydrates after a workout?

A: There are two primary reasons to eat carbohydrates after your workout:

  1. Carbohydrates boost insulin levels. When you eat carbohydrates--which are broken down into sugars--your pancreas produces insulin, one of the body’s primary storage hormones. If you follow the rules I gave in “What To Eat Before And After Exercising,” then you know that you’re supposed to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates after exercising. The extra insulin actually helps your body to more efficiently utilize the amino acids from the protein, so you rebuild and repair your muscles more quickly.

  2. If you eat your carbohydrates after a workout, you’re less likely to “cheat” on carbohydrates later on. As a matter of fact, immediately after a workout, your body is fairly bulletproof to fat formation, meaning that a post-workout candy bar is far more likely to get stored as muscle energy, compared to a candy bar consumed during a movie, which is far more likely to get stored as fat. So if you’re a candy bar fiend, you might as well cheat after the workout rather than cheating later.

If you've just completed an incredibly carbohydrate-depleting workout (like a half marathon or three-hour bike ride) there are other reasons to eat carbs, but that's a topic for another day. Finally, if you really want to get nit-picky about the post-workout nutrition debate, you can read a recent blog post I wrote entitled: Post Workout Nutrition Debate Musings From Ben Greenfield.

Carbohydrates image courtesy of Shutterstock

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.