The right post-exercise food choices can make all the difference between getting stronger and getting tired. Here are 10 great things to have after an excellent workout.
Whether you work up a sweat in the morning or evening, chances are you grab a little bite before you hit the gym. A snack before you work out helps give you energy and stamina to go the distance. But did you know that eating a snack after you work out is even more important?
Many of us choose to stay hungry after a good run for fear of letting all that hard work go to waste, while some of us binge eat. When you exercise, you work muscles. Muscles are made of protein. If you don’t replenish your protein after 90 minutes, you miss the window. You can have a protein shake or good quality protein, such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and if you’re vegetarian — pulses. Contrary to popular belief, protein isn’t the star of the show. It really only becomes important for high-interval training or weight training.
The two things we need most after physical activity are fluid and carbohydrates. For fluid, check your sweat rate. Weigh yourself before and after exercise, and drink 1.5 litres for every lost kilogram. For carbs, aim for 1.5 grams per kilo of body weight. So, if you weigh 59 kilograms, you’ll need 90 grams of carbs. It’s important to have these within 30 minutes of exercising, when your body is most able to use these nutrients.
Have a snack right away, rather than waiting until you get home to prepare a meal. Try a granola or cereal bar, a fruit cup, a smoothie, dry cereal, trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit, vegetables and hummus, or crackers with cheese. Avoid foods high in fat or fibre, which slow digestion. Chase snacks with eight to 12 ounces of water.
Instead of a Gatorade, grab a glass of orange juice. In addition to vitamin C, you’ll get significantly more potassium than you would from popular sports drinks. This important electrolyte helps the body restore its fluid levels.
Brown is fine for your dose of carbs, brown rice is fine. But it can’t compete with the vitamins, protein, fibre and nutrients found in quinoa. And it takes less time to prepare.
Speaking of potassium, you can have a banana. It is high in the good kinds of carbs you need after a workout. These fast-acting carbs will help restore your body’s levels of glycogen, thus helping rebuild
Salmon is a great option for a large dose of protein. The anti-inflammatory property of omega-3 acid found in this fish will also help rebuild your muscles and increase performance. Greek yoghurt has double the amount of protein compared to regular yoghurt and is a great source of carbohydrates. Mix it with cereal or fruit. Fresh berries pack micronutrients, which have been proven to help fight muscle soreness. Blueberries give a huge antioxidant boost. Studies show that they can triple your rate of recovery after intense workouts.
If you’re main goal is to build muscle, eat at least 30 grams of protein and 30 to 35 grams of carbs within 15 minutes of your workout. If you’re just trying to stay in shape or shed a few pounds, you can take your time and eat within 45 minutes or an hour after your workout.