Q: I’ve heard different theories about what to eat following a workout. What is the best thing to eat to maximize my workout efforts?
A: Think of your post-exercise meal or snack as an extension of your workout program. In order to optimize the work that you put in during your exercise session, you need to re-fuel right.
One of the reasons that your post-workout meal is so special is because of your body’s ability to absorb nutrients more efficiently during that time. After a workout, your muscles are like dry sponges ready for maximum nutrient absorption. There are also hormonal benefits that may occur right after a workout, including an increased sensitivity to insulin that can aid weight loss and diabetes prevention. To reap these benefits, aim to eat something within 30 minutes to an hour post-workout. The main goal of your post-workout meal or snack is to replenish your energy stores and repair muscle so that you get stronger and have the necessary energy for your next workout.
In addition to timing, the quality of your food is important. The best combination is a meal or snack that consists of a whole grain or other unrefined carbohydrates (starchy veggies or fruit) and a source of protein. Some people find that they’re not very hungry immediately following a workout. If that’s you, eat a simple, easily digestible snack that provides protein and carbohydrate, as opposed to a full meal. Good examples of post-workout snacks are fruit and yogurt smoothies, low-fat chocolate milk, edamame paired with a piece of fruit, and a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit, or a slice of whole grain bread spread with peanut butter. Shoot for 10 to 15 grams of protein and 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates in your snack. If you work out in the evening and are going to immediately eat dinner, a balanced meal of 3-4 ounces of protein (chicken, fish, tofu/beans), about one cup of healthy whole grain carbs or starchy veggies, a tablespoon of healthy fat, and a cup or two of veggies is a great post-workout meal.
Do you usually eat following a workout? What are your go-to meals or snacks?