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As important as healthy fats are to a balanced diet, the timing of when to consume fats is something to consider in order to optimize your performance in the gym.
So, should you eat fat after a workout? Limiting fat intake after your workout is a good idea in terms of post-workout recovery. Fats slow down the digestion of food, which after a workout can cause a delay in the delivery of protein and glucose to your muscles. Not exceeding a maximum of 15-20g of fat in your post-workout meal is ideal.
Depending on your fitness goals, body composition, how many times you are working out in a day, and overall workout intensity, the tolerance for fat consumption post-workout will vary from person to person. We’ll get into the specifics below.
After reading this article you will learn:
- Why you may want to limit fat after a workout
- How much fat is okay to eat after your workout
- Guidelines for eating fat after a workout
2 Reasons Why You May Want To Limit Fat After A Workout
The two reasons you DO NOT want to include high-fat meals after your workout are:
1. It Can Alter Your Bodies Anabolic Response
If your goal is building muscle you need to ensure your body is undergoing muscle protein synthesis as effectively as possible
When it comes to building muscle, prioritizing protein after your workout is key to increasing muscle fiber size and strength.
The current literature suggests that ingesting fast-digesting carbohydrates and fast-digesting protein (ex. whey protein powders) post-workout is optimal for replenishing your muscles and triggering an anabolic (muscle building) response in your body.
Fats slows down the digestion of food, which will in turn cause the vital anabolic nutrients to be delivered slower to your muscles.
While slowing down digestion and staying satiated for longer is great in terms of adhering to a lower calorie diet, when it comes to post-workout nutrition the same can not be said.
- Want to know whether pre workout is a better time to eat fat? Check out Should You Eat Fat Before A Workout?
2. It Will Take up Caloric Space for Other Macronutrients
Fat contains 9 calories per gram, which is 5 more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates.
As such, by eating fats post-workout, you take up volume in your stomach that otherwise needs to be reserved for more important post-workout nutrients (carbs and protein).
The recommended macronutrient split post-workout is:
- Carbs: 0.8-1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight
- Protein: 0.2-0.4g of protein per kg of body weight
- Fat: Less than 20g of fat
For example, if you weigh 180lbs (80kg), you would aim for 64-80g of carbs, 16-32g of protein, and less than 20g of fat post-workout.
Staying within these macronutrient targets will ensure you are not overloading your post-workout meal or snack with fat calories or blunting recovery due to a higher than needed fat intake.
- Related Article: Can I Workout After Dinner? What To Eat + 6 Things To Know
How Much Fat Is Okay To Eat After Your Workout?
Keeping fat limited to a maximum of 20g in your post workout meal will ensure the shuttling of nutrients to your muscles will not be delayed.
So how hard is it to exceed the 20g threshold? It’s actually pretty hard…
For example, most whey protein supplements will have between 1-3g of fat per scoop. So even if you have 2 scoops of whey protein post-workout, you’ll still be well under the fat limit. Just make sure to mix it with water (not milk), otherwise, you’ll have a higher fat content.
Other meals you could include post-workout that have an optimal macronutrient split are:
- Egg White & Oatmeal Protein Pancake: Only 12g of fat
- Egg White Protein Shake: Only 18g of fat
- Related Article: Can You Eat Fried Food Before or After Workouts?
4 Tips For Eating Fat After Your Workout
Here are four other rules to follow around eating fat post workout:
1. Measure Your Fat Intake
Make sure to track your fat intake by looking at the ingredient panels or using an app like MacroFactor. 20g of fat looks like roughly 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, ½ a small avocado or 3 egg yolks.
- Related Article: Does Eating Junk Food After A Workout Ruin It? (No, Here’s Why)
2. Wait Two to Three Hours Post Workout to Ingest a High Fat Meal
Leaving space between your post workout feeding and your next big meal will allow for the carbs and protein to be shuttled into your muscles effectively without being blunted by a high fat meal.
3. If You Workout More than Once a Day, Keep Your Post Workout Meal or Shake Purely Carbs and Protein
If you train twice a day or have less than 8 hours between workouts, keeping your post workout meal to strictly protein and carbs will ensure your body has the optimal time to recover and replenish glycogen stores so you can bring the same amount of energy to your next training session
4. On the Go Avoid Energy Bars or Snacks with High Fat Add-ons like Nuts and Coconut
Energy bars are a great snack if you are on the go; however, some can pack up to 30g of fat if you aren’t careful. Opting for bars that are protein focused will ensure you are keeping fat at bay.
Here are three protein bar options that have less than 20g of fat and would be ideal post workout:
Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Protein Bar – 2.5g of Fat
- Calories: 210 kcal
- Carbs: 25 g
- Protein: 14 g
- Fat: 2.5 g
Pure Protein Bar – 7g of Fat
- Calories: 190 kcal
- Carbs: 17 g
- Protein: 20 g
- Fat: 7 g
MRE Protein Bar – 9g of Fat
- Calories: 260 kcal
- Carbs: 29 g
- Protein: 20 g
- Fat: 9 g
What To Read Next
If you do go over your fat intake, make sure to check out my article What Happens If You Go Over Your Fat Macros to learn what to do next.
Or, if you struggle with eating enough protein, but keeping your fat intake low, then check out my article How To Increase Protein Intake Without Increasing Fat Intake.
Other Post Workout Nutrition Resources
Andersen, L. L., Tufekovic, G., Zebis, M. K., Crameri, R. M., Verlaan, G., Kjær, M., Suetta, C., Magnusson, P., & Aagaard, P. (2005). The effect of resistance training combined with timed ingestion of protein on muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Metabolism, 54(2), 151-156. ISSN 0026-0495. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2004.07.012.
Little TJ, Horowitz M, Feinle-Bisset C. Modulation by high-fat diets of gastrointestinal function and hormones associated with the regulation of energy intake: implications for the pathophysiology of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Sep;86(3):531-41. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/86.3.531. PMID: 17823414.
Kreider, R.B., Wilborn, C.D., Taylor, L. et al. ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 7, 7 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-7
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