Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate Denver YMCA

October 3, 2023

Written by Stefan Schuster, MS and Alyssa Leib, MS, RD

Fueling after a workout is important to help you recover faster - but it can be tricky to know what to eat! By remembering to “Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate”, you can guide your post exercise eating habits.


Carbohydrates (carbs), one of three macronutrients we need, are the body’s main source of fuel. Carbs are stored in muscles as something called glycogen. Your body uses up this glycogen during exercise, leaving your stores empty. To refill these stores, it is important to eat carbs after a workout.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends eating about 0.8 grams of carbs per pound of body weight after a workout. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you could eat about 80 grams of carbs in your post-workout meal. Remember, this can vary based on individual factors, intensity of your workout, and your hunger level. 

You can find carbs in foods like fruits, starchy vegetables (like potatoes or winter squash), legumes (like beans or lentils), or grains (like whole-grain bread, rice, pasta, or oats). 


When you exercise, your muscles break down. Your muscles will grow back stronger with proper recovery after a workout - this is where protein, another macronutrient, comes in. You might know that protein helps to build muscles; but, did you know that protein also builds hormones, strengthens your immune system, and keeps organs strong? For these reasons, it’s important to eat plenty of protein so there’s enough to go around!  

Eating protein throughout the day is important to maintain muscle mass, but timing also matters! The ISSN recommends eating 20-40 grams of protein within an hour of a workout. This will help to rebuild muscles.

To meet your protein needs, try low-fat dairy products (like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese), eggs, beans, nuts, or lean meats! You can also make a high-protein smoothie by mixing your favorite fruit with peanut butter, yogurt, or whey protein powder.


You may lose fluids and electrolytes during a workout through sweat. There are many factors that can impact how much is lost during your workout, including the type of workout, temperature, altitude, and genetics. 

It is hard to make fluid recommendations due to everyone’s unique needs. The ISSN recommends drinking 3 cups of water for every pound lost in sweat during exercise. For an average workout, 8 ounces of fluid after a workout is a good starting point. 

The best fluid choice is water, but if you are a heavy sweater, you may want to try sports drinks, bone broth, or veggie juice to replace electrolytes (like salt) lost in sweat.

Putting it all Together

Now you know that you need carbs, protein, AND fluid after a workout to help with recovery. But how can you put it all together? A meal or snack that includes protein and carbs, with a glass of water on the side, is a great starting point.

Here are some options to try:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt with ½ cup granola
  • Fruit smoothie with 1 banana, ½ cup blueberries, and 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 ounces of tuna with 5-10 whole grain crackers
  • 1 cup edamame and 1 banana
  • 1 medium tortilla with ½ cup refried beans

Remember, the recommendations from ISSN are general and nutrition needs vary from person to person depending on activity level and medical history. It’s best to work with a Registered Dietitian to figure out what is best for you.

Want to learn more about how nutrition can help you to recover faster while performing your best? Join us for a 90-minute workshop on performance nutrition led by a Registered Dietitian: 

  • University Hills YMCA: October 23 | 5-6:30pm
  • Arvada YMCA: October 25| 5:30-7pm
  • Littleton YMCA: November 7 | 5-6:30pm

Register online here. For more information, contact

Click to learn more about the YMCA of Metro Denver's Nutrition Team, Consultations and Events.


Kersick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;33.

Kersick CM, Wilborn CD, Roberts MD, et al. ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:38.