One of the biggest mistakes people make while on a weight loss journey is not eating after they exercise. Many people think that not eating after they work out will help them lose weight; however, this is not the case. While exercising is amazing for your health in the long term, it actually puts a lot of stress on the body. If you don’t refuel properly after your workout, it can be detrimental to your body, making it hard for your body to recover and for you to see results.

Rather than starving yourself after a workout, help your body repair itself and build muscle by consuming a meal within 30 to 45 minutes after exercising. This meal should contain a minimum of 20 to 25 grams of high-quality protein. While it can be a challenge to get a full meal during that time, protein shakes are a quick and easy way to meet this need. The type of workout you do will determine your body’s carbohydrate needs. If you are doing an intense cardio or endurance workout, aim for a 3-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio post-workout. For example, if you have a shake with 20 grams of protein, try adding some fruit and aim for 60 grams of carbohydrates. If you are doing a lighter intensity or resistance-based workout, your body doesn’t need quite as many carbohydrates, so shoot for a 1-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Don’t stress too much about the perfect ratio, the most important thing is to make sure you eat!

An additional benefit of consuming a high-quality protein shake post-workout is that it can keep you from making poor food choices later. Too often we don’t eat when leaving the gym, and by the time we get home, we’re so hungry that we reach for the first thing we see, which is typically sugary food. When you get calories immediately post-workout, you’ll find that you won’t feel that crash, and it will be so much easier to make healthier choices when you get home.

There are several foods that can help with muscle soreness. Dark berries are a good choice because of the high amounts of antioxidants. In particular, recent studies have shown that tart cherries have been associated with helping reduce muscle soreness. Adding berries to a protein shake post-workout can be beneficial in the recovery process. Lastly, turmeric is a spice that has been shown to be beneficial post-workout and at night before sleep. Turmeric can be taken in capsules, as a powder or in liquid form.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do post-workout is supply your body with the nutrients it needs. Consuming adequate amounts of protein post-workout will allow you to build muscle, which in the long term will help you increase your metabolism and get you closer to your body composition goals.