It may be shocking to hear that what we eat and how we recover after a workout is just as important (if not more) than the actual workout itself. It’s imperative that we focus on rejuvenating and recovering post workout so that we can actually build and develop muscles. When we work out we are technically damaging our muscles, so recovery is when the tissue repairs and grows. So since post-workout is a crucial period of time for our bodies, we need to make sure that we are fueling up with the proper foods for post-workout recovery!
Before we get into the types of foods we need to be eating after a workout, it is essential to understand what your body goes through during physical exercise and afterwards. While you are working out, your body uses up energy storage called “glycogen stores.” This means that your muscles are being exhausted of their glycogen and proteins. After a workout, your body attempts to restore its muscle proteins and rebuild those glycogen stores. Consuming the right nutrients after you exercise is very important to make sure your body can get this process done efficiently, while also enhancing your recovery.
So, what exactly is recommended for us to eat post-workout? Let’s discuss in more detail!
Eat These Foods Post-Workout
Protein helps repair the muscles in our bodies, so it is important to consume foods that have a good spectrum of amino acids. Consuming foods that have complete proteins after a workout can supply your body what it needs in order to make these repairs. When it comes to how much protein post-workout, resources state that between 20-60 grams post workout can assist with recovery.
Here’s a list of suggested proteins:
If you’re a strict plant-based eater:
- plant-based protein powders
- dark leafy greens
If you’re a no-label dieter and consume what you feel is right for you:
- Lean meats
Carbs, on the other hand, helps replenish those glycogen stores mentioned above. It is important for us to retain the energy we lost during a workout, and carbs can help us get back on our feet! When it comes to the amount though, it varies for different types of workouts. If you are doing intense cardio or high intensity training, you’ll need more carbs as you’ve lost more glycogen. If you’re only focusing on resistance training, you won’t need to consume as many carbs post-workout. Here’s a list of suggested carbs:
- Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
- Brown rice
- Fruits like bananas, apples and berries
- Veggies like dark leafy greens
When it comes down to it though, consuming both carbohydrates and protein together can help you fully maximize your recovery. Here are some studies that discuss the carb to protein ratio that is recommended post-workout (1 , 2, 3)
It’s also important that you consume your post-workout meal as soon as possible after you’ve worked out so that you can fully utilize the benefits.
Here are just some recipe ideas to get you thinking of ways to combine these food groups after your next workout.
Other simple ideas could be:
- Whole wheat wrap with turkey and veggies
- Sauteed vegetables with grilled chicken
- Grilled salmon with rice
- Fruit smoothie with protein powder
- Yogurt bowl with granola and berries
- Whole wheat tuna, spinach and hummus sandwich
Most experts recommend that you consume these nutrients within 45 minutes of your workout. (While the foods we put into our body are crucial after a workout, daily reminder that it’s just as important to push those fluids and drink plenty of water after a workout too!) So next time you’re hitting the gym, think about all of the creative ways you can whip up a meal that your body will thank you for!
contributing author: Lauren Cumbo