Most of us go to the gym, take a fitness class, or head outdoors for a run with a specific goal in mind. We want to increase our strength, decrease body fat and improve our well being without spending our lives at the gym and our nights preparing meals for hours on end.
Over time, we learn that various formats and intensity levels of our program bring the results. Yet, perhaps you still feel sluggish. The pace of your run has slowed. Your strength workouts are intense, but you are not seeing the muscle development you would like. While you make healthy choices when eating, you may be overlooking the importance of post workout nutrition.
Why is fueling after a workout so important?
What you eat after a workout can optimize the recovery process. Proper post workout fuel will replenish muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout, reduce muscle protein breakdown, and increase muscle protein synthesis. It can also help reduce cravings and fatigue. It is important to remember that just because you ran 3 miles or completed a spin class, you do not have an all access pass to the fridge or restaurant menu. In general, people tend to overestimate the amount of calories they have burned and underestimate how many they consume on a daily basis. This can lead to weight gain over time–the exact opposite of what most of us want! The following tips are suggestions that may help maximize your post workout nutrition without negating your hard work.
- Aim to eat within 30-60 minutes after your workout. After a workout your body is in prime condition to absorb proteins and carbs, putting those nutrients to good use.
- Avoid eating fats as they slow down digestion, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do.
- Avoid eating salty foods. They lower your levels of potassium which should be avoided when you have already lost electrolytes during your workout. Additional potassium will lower them even more.
- Your snack should be in the ballpark of about 250 calories, with a mix of carbs and protein. Aim for 30-40 grams of carbs with 10-15 grams of protein.
- If you are doing a cardio workout, aim for a slightly higher ratio of carbs to protein.
- A morning workout breaks down glycogen stored in your liver, so if you workout first thing in the morning, these liver stores (in addition to glycogen stores) are depleted. Therefore, the emphasis should be on carbohydrates.
- After an evening workout, choose a dinner full of carbohydrates, which provide quick energy for the body. Add protein for long lasting energy.
What kinds of foods or drinks should I have?
- Fruit with nuts or nut butter
- Hummus with carrot sticks
- Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and BCAAs. Zinc helps the growth and repair of muscle tissue. It can also improve immune health.
- Protein. Protein shakes are beneficial because they are convenient and do not require a lot of digestion.
- Add chia seeds to your shake or snack for additional muscle repairing protein.
- Bananas. I like adding frozen banana to my protein shake because it creates a “milkshake-like” texture and the carbs help speed up delivery of protein to your muscles.
- Tart cherry juice is another great addition to your protein shake. They contain anthycyanins, a compound that has been shown to block inflammation while reducing muscle damage (health.usnews.com).
- Chocolate milk. The high carb and protein content in chocolate milk make it an extremely effective post workout drink.
- Greek yogurt with dried fruit
What are your favorite sources of post workout fuel? Comment below or tag me on social media!