Eating right is one of the most important parts of your workout routine.
Without the proper building blocks, a.k.a. nutrients, all that work you did doesn’t build muscle, but instead has the potential to cause serious injury.
While most athletes focus on what they eat before a workout, post workout nutrition is just as important, if not more so. You need to restore the glycogen and proteins in your muscles as quickly as possible. If you don’t, your muscles can’t recover after a serious workout.
The point of post workout nutrition is simple:
- Rebuild energy stores in muscles
- Improve muscle quality
- Repair muscle damage from the workout
Restoring Muscle Energy With Carbs
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately. They provide an important source of glucose, which fuels our bodies. However, it’s important to remember that not all carbs are the same.
There are three types of carbs: Sugar, starch, and fiber.
Sugar is fast-acting and makes us feel great for a little while, but doesn’t provide what your muscles need to recover.
Starch is a slow-release carbohydrate that provides reliable energy all day long. This is also where we get most of the important nutrients our bodies need like calcium, B vitamins, and iron.
Fiber comes from plants and makes us feel fuller longer. Diets low in fiber put you at a risk for stroke, heart disease, and bowel cancer.
For your post workout meal, consider including the following healthy sources of carbs:
- Dark leafy greens (an excellent source of magnesium, which reduces inflammation)
- Potatoes (with the skin on to get all the nutrients)
- Chocolate Milk
Recover Faster After a Workout With Proteins
High protein diets are all the rage. Unfortunately, they’ve been proven to lose their effectiveness after about six months. Not only that, high protein diets lead to ammonia buildup in the body, causes dieters to lose calcium, and doesn’t provide the essential vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber people need.
To make sure your post workout recovery is a success, you should eat protein and carbs together. This stimulates your body to make insulin, which encourages muscles to replenish glycogen. Glycogen is vital because it provides energy to your muscles.
Try these protein rich foods to eat after a workout:
- Tofu (or other soy-based products)
- Whole Grains
- Greek Yogurt
Don’t Skip the Fats!
It might be tempting to cut fats from your post workout meal, but they’re just as important to your health as carbs and proteins. When you take the time to learn more about how foods help your body recover from a workout, you’ll understand why your meals need to be well-balanced.
Healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, provide extra energy and promote cell growth. They also protect your organs and help your body absorb nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Add these healthy fats to your post workout meal:
- Dark Chocolate
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Chia Seeds
Post Workout Nutrition Isn’t as Hard as It Seems
It may seem daunting to change how you eat after a workout. Many of us want something quick and easy that fills us up for a while.
With a little planning, you can get the proper post workout nutrition your body needs as easily as hitting a drive-through. Set aside a little time to plan and prep your meal before you exercise, that way it’s waiting for you after.
These meals don’t have to be complicated. A Greek yogurt parfait with berries, granola, and coconut is a perfect post workout meal.
How many fun meals can you create from the lists above? Give it a try! You’ll be surprised at how many different delicious dishes you can make.