When I make the effort to workout I usually try to hit it pretty hard. With that said, it is not unusual for me to feel ravenous after a high energy cycle class or a gut busting boot camp! But I often wonder what the best thing to eat post workout actually is. I have heard a variety of opinions, but today it’s time to dig around and answer this once and for all!
What should I eat after I workout?
All of the research comes to basically the same conclusion; a great post workout meal includes the right combination of proteins and carbohydrates. That means eating snacks containing carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen stores and protein to aid in muscle repair and recovery. More sources discussed the workout window which is said to be, 20-30 minutes before you exercise followed by the 2-3 hours after you are completed.
Protein shakes can be a great source of fuel and nutrition. However, many of us begin consuming them all too late according to a livestrong.com article. They suggest that we begin sipping the shake 20 minutes before our workout, as well as during the sweat session, and finish the shake after. Check out my favorite brown rice protein powder that has no added chemicals!
Men’s Fitness also gives some great examples of post workout foods. Everything from an apple/turkey/and cheese combo, to low-fat yogurt and granola. Check out the rest of their easy snack recipes!
You can’t cancel out the calories you just burned during your workout. Weight loss and the human body don’t work like that. When you’re working out, your body burns fat to be used as energy. If you eat right after your workout, those calories won’t be used to replace the burned body fat. Your body only stores food as body fat when it doesn’t have anything else to do with the extra calories you eat. After your workout, your body needs to start restoring and repairing itself from your training session. In other words, it needs calories. –shape.com
Another great recovery snack is the protein pancake.
Here are two more great recipe variations for you:
1. Mix 4 egg whites, ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1/8 teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cook on preheated griddle (medium low heat) until it bubbles, then flip and cook another 30-60 seconds. Top with fresh berries or sliced banana! –greatest.com
2. 1 /4 cup egg whites, 1 scoop protein powder, 2 tablespoons milk of choice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed. Mix all of these together then add 1/2 of a ripe banana, and maybe a handful of berries!
Pour into a pan that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray- heat on medium. Cook one side until you see the little bubbles. Flip over and cook on the other side until the middle is done (peek inside with a fork).-toneitup.com
Some additional quick and tasty post workout choices include:
-Tuna and whole grain crackers.
-Ants on a raft: Spread a heap of natural peanut butter over a brown rice cake and top with raisins.
-Mini whole wheat bagel with egg or egg whites.
-Cereal and milk: Add 1 cup of low-fat milk or milk or choice to 1 cup of whole-grain cereal.
-Chocolate milk. Almond is good too! 1-2 cups is perfect to fill the carb/protein requirements.
-AB & J: For this healthier twist on the classic PB & J, sandwich 1 tablespoon of almond butter and 1 teaspoon of strawberry jam between two rice cakes, two thin buns, or my favorite-Ezekiel bread.
-Green Smoothie: Check out these delicious and creative recipes at simple green smoothie.com
If you are an evening exerciser, be sure to get home and have a healthy meal planned for your growling stomach. A lean protein, some brown rice or quinoa, and some greens are always an excellent and balanced choice.
Food Matters TV states that post workout food is all about balance:
A post-workout meal isn’t just about protein. It should include a lean protein source (for muscle repair) along with a whole grain (to replete glycogen, the carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue, which serves as a primary fuel source during exercise), plenty of produce (to replenish nutrients), a healthy fat source (for healing and circulation) and of course more fluid (to rehydrate).
The Perfect Post Workout Smoothie:
1-2 Frozen Bananas
1 heaped tablespoon of nut butter (choice of almond, organic peanut or cashew nut)
1 ½ Cup Almond Milk (or your choice of milk)
Optional additions (organic protein powder, raw cacao, raw egg, cinnamon, flax, chia etc.)
I know it is difficult to plan for optimal nutrition post workout. Often I am not going straight home from the gym, and could have some stops to make before I can sit down to eat. If I need to eat something ideally within 30 minutes of my workout I need to plan and prep. I often take my lunch cooler with me, and eat my packed snack in the car. If I have to run into the grocery store I may grab some fresh-cut pineapple and a nut butter packet to dig into.If all else fails, feel free to stop at a restaurant and order a lean sandwich on whole grain bread, a banana and trail mix with your Grande Latte, or a yogurt parfait. Remember, there is always a way to work in good nutrition!
Whatever you do, don’t starve yourself after your workout. Take advantage of the metabolic and hormonal changes that happen post workout to refuel and enjoy a good meal.
What do you eat after you exercise?