You may have learned from my blog last week that eating a proper pre-workout snack or meal is crucial to performing your best while exercising. It’s not only what you eat before your workout that’s important, but also what you eat directly afterwards.
According to Mike Roussell, PhD, immediately after your workout is the best time of day to eat. He recommends eating something even if you’re not starving. When you exercise, your body burns fat, which is then used for energy. “If you eat right after your workout, those calories won’t be used to replace the burned body fat,” says Roussell. “Your body only stores food as body fat when it doesn’t have anything else to do with the extra calories you eat.”
After working out, you need to replenish your body to help it recover properly. The body needs protein to build and repair the muscles that were broken down during exercise. Eating after your workout will restore your energy and help repair your muscles.
Research has proven that the body’s ability to restore muscle energy decreases by 50% if you wait two hours to eat after your workout. Eating after a workout will increase the insulin in your body, helping it to better use carbohydrates for the following 24 hours. This is especially important if you’re trying to lose weight.
There is a specific formula to follow for post-workout nutrition: a balance of protein and carbohydrates. Protein powders such as whey and soy are good options. Try to pick ones with minimal added sugar and those that contain about 10-15 grams of protein and 30-40 grams of carbohydrates. This is a good option if you are on the go and don’t have time to sit down and eat a proper meal.
I am a true believer in the notion that nothing can replace real, whole foods. If you have the time, sit down and eat a proper meal. Keep in mind that correct portion size varies depending on how intense your workout was. Here are some good post-workout snack and meal options:
- Yogurt: Greek is best and you should aim for those low in sugar and fat, with berries and a ¼ cup of granola. Again, beware of sugar and fat-content when choosing a brand of granola – it can be a great healthy snack but should only be enjoyed in small amounts.
- High fiber, low sugar, whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with skim, soy, or almond milk. Add berries or a banana if you’d like. Another great additive to cereal is wheat germ or ground flax – these add fiber, protein and vitamins. Flax is especially good for weight control.
- Dried fruit and nuts. Nuts contain protein and healthy fats and dried fruit is a great source of antioxidants. Portion size is very important. Try to stick to ¼ cup and if you’d like, make your own trail mix! Walnuts, almonds, and pecans are great, as are raisins, dried blueberries, dried cherries and dried cranberries. This is a good option for an on-the-go post-workout snack.
- Turkey sandwich, the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates. Choose whole grain bread and add lettuce and tomatoes for extra nutrients and flavor.
- Eggs, any style! Eggs are great sources of protein and go well with a slice or two of whole grain toast. You can also add vegetables to any omelet for even more nutrients. Try not to have more than two yolks.
- Whole wheat pasta with chicken and vegetables
- Stir fry vegetables with chicken or tofu
- Salmon or chicken and brown rice with vegetables
Lastly, remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. It is crucial that you replace the electrolytes in your body, which are lost through sweat. Water is important, but if you sweat heavily Gatorade and Powerade will replenish your lost electrolytes most efficiently.
By Emily Borgeest