Knowledge is Power
Eating the right foods after a workout can help your body recover better so you're ready to go for your next session. Refueling after exercise boosts athletic performance and energy levels by:
Calories eaten after a workout are less likely to be stored as fat because they are used to replenish glycogen. But working out doesn't mean you can eat as much as you want. If you overindulge, calories will be stored as fat.
As a general rule, you only need to eat after working out for a long time or at high intensity. For example, eating right after a brisk 30 minute walk probably isn't needed because your muscles won't use up all of your glycogen stores.
How much food you need depends on a few factors:
Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbs than protein after a workout. Pairing foods high in wholesome carbs with a small amount of protein is the perfect mix to renew energy stores and rebuild muscles.
Good carb sources include whole-grain breads and cereals, pasta, beans/legumes, fruits and vegetables. Roughly 50 percent to 60 percent of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates.
Good protein sources include lean meats, chicken, fish, cottage cheese, beans, low-fat milk, hardboiled eggs and yogurt. Remember there are also small amounts of protein in most carb foods as well. About one fourth of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein.
Try these foods for a post-workout boost:
When to eat
There is a short window of time to eat after exercise to gain the most benefits. The ideal time to eat is within 30 minutes to an hour after your fitness session ends. That's when the body will act like a sponge and absorb the most nutrients. If you wait more than two hours to eat, it will take longer to refuel your glycogen stores and you may feel sluggish during your next workout.
Note that the more casual exerciser may not need to follow this rule as strictly. Your body will naturally take in carbs and protein from other foods during the day, provided you are eating a healthy diet.
Don't forget to drink up
Always drink plenty of water before, during and after a workout to stay hydrated. Sports drinks contain carbs and electrolytes, but they're also high in added sugar and most contain no protein. Unless you work out for more than an hour at a time, stick with water.
Charity Bidegain, ACE Certified Personal Trainer. Supporting all who live the mission of helping us all to live healthier, more fulfilled lives.