After you wipe the sweat off after a tough workout, what should you eat? To get the most out of your hard work, get the timing right and have a healthy strategy.

Refueling after a workout is an important nutrition moment to improve body composition, repair muscles, and keep you energy steady. Your body uses glycogen and fat for energy, and exercise also causes minor muscle damage that promotes muscle growth and an increase in strength.

Despite the fact you want to eat everything in sight (or get a drink with your workout buddies), here are the healthiest strategies and options to reap the biggest rewards.

Right After: Snack Attack

About 20 to 45 minutes after your workout, grab a super snack. Why? Research shows that shortly after a workout, your body is primed for maximum absorption of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), to build and repair muscle damage and restore nutrients and water lost through sweat.

Also, glucose is your body’s prime energy source that helps you move, lift, jump, and run. When it runs low, it has a big impact on energy, brain function, and metabolism. Getting your blood sugar levels back to normal within the immediate window after your workout helps control hunger, improves storage of glucose for energy, and aids in muscle repair.

Try these small, but effective snacks:

  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Banana with almond or nut butter
  • Low-fat chocolate milk

These snacks have just the right balance of macronutrients to maximize muscle repair and restore blood sugar after your workout.

Full Meal Deal 

Wait for at least 60 minutes after working out to eat a full meal, but eat the full meal within two hours. Don’t go overboard and consume twice the calories your burned in your workout; instead, fill your plate with lean protein to support muscle growth and repair, healthy fats to support heart health, proteins and complex carbohydrates to restore energy and regulate blood sugar.

Try these meals to repair, restore, and rejuvenate:

  • Grilled chicken and vegetables
  • Veggie omelet with avocado
  • Salmon with sweet potato

When you plan your post-meal workouts, follow food recommendations from Harvard’s  Healthy Eating Plate. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats, and low-fat dairy or soy products.

What you eat before a workout is important, too.  Check out Live Your Vie’s tips on what to eat minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour before.

Exercise regularly and make time to refuel – at the right time! It’s the best recipe to maintain a healthy weight and enjoy an active lifestyle.