Life is busy and it only seems to be getting busier. Sometimes there is barely enough time to do what we know is best for our body: sleep 7-8 hours, eat balanced and nourishing meals, and exercise. Today’s topic is on one of those important areas: What to feed your body after a workout and how to make that meal easy and on-the-go!
Your post workout meal is a very important meal in the day (almost as important as breakfast). Even though exercise provides your body and health with numerous benefits, it is a “stressor” on the body. Stressor because exercise typically exhausts or depletes most of your muscle’s fuel resources. In response to this, your body asks for rest and replenishment in a few different ways: increased soreness, fatigue, and increased appetite, to name a few.
After a workout, your muscles need a combination of nutrients that will help them rebuild with greater strength and endurance, which then provides you the healthy changes you are looking for!
The key ingredients to a post-workout meal are protein and carbohydrates. Protein provides the amino acid profile that your body needs. Amino acids are the building blocks for your muscles. Carbohydrates provide energy. The energy from carbohydrates are converted into glycogen, which is the primary fuel source for your muscles and brain. These two nutrients work hand in hand for muscle recovery.
How much to eat
The recommended ratio is technically 4:1, carbohydrates: protein. To make this a simple decision, be sure to include 1 serving of protein and 1 serving of carbohydrate, as a minimum. You will need to adjust the amount according to the size of your meal, your calorie needs, your size, the intensity of your workout and how hungry you are. Typically you should plan for this snack to be roughly 200-300 calories post workout. As a reminder: your unique needs will determine how many calories will encourage best workout recovery. Experiment and see what feels good in your body!
When to eat
When you finish a workout, your muscles are in a place where they are primed and ready for refueling. There is never a better time to eat your post workout meal then immediately after. Ideally, within 1 hour after exercise. It is ideal but NOT required.
Post workout snacks
Here is a started list for post workout snacks that suggest at least 1 serving of protein and 1 serving of carbohydrate. You can use this list as your basis and then tweak according to your tastes and needs.
1. Protein shake:
- 1 serving of protein of choice + milk or water + 1 serving of fruit
- go crazy here and even add a handful of greens for extra punch
2. Yogurt bowl:
- Greek yogurt + banana or fruit of choice + granola sprinkled on top
- 2 scrambled eggs or egg whites + 1 slice of whole wheat toast
4. Homemade Protein Bar:
- 1 banana, mushed
- 1 scoop protein powder of choice
- 1/2 cup granola
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- Mix ingredients. Spread on wax paper and cover. Freeze for 90 minutes. Thaw in microwave if needed for 10 seconds. Recipe based off of Tony Horton’s Sticky Bar.
5. Cracker Style:
- grab a serving size of your favorite wheat crackers with a dose of toppings
- whole wheat crackers + hummus or peanut butter or cheese
6. The Latte way :
- latte + hard boiled egg or spoonful of peanut butter
7. Cliff Bar, Luna Bar, protein bar of choice:
- find a protein bar that agrees with your body and provides you the energy you need
8. Roll ups:
- sliced deli meat + cheese + fruit of choice
9. PB Toast:
- peanut butter + sliced banana + slice of whole wheat toast
- combination of favorite nuts with a side of your choice
- 20-30 almonds + fruit of choice + granola bar
- 20-30 almonds + greek yogurt
11. Hummus all around:
- 3-4 tbsp hummus + apple slices + slice of whole wheat bread
- 3-4 tbps hummus + carrot sticks + pita bread
12. Bean Wraps
- 1/4 c. beans of choice + 2 tablespoons hummus + small pita or wrap
- 1/4 c. beans of choice + shredded cheese + small pita or wrap
- 1/4 c. beans of choice + salsa + small pita or wrap
13. Classic Oats
- oatmeal + protein powder + fruit topping
- oatmeal + 1 tbsp. peanut butter
A few helpful hints for fitting in your post workout snack:
1. Prepare ingredients ahead of time. Chop and wash fruits/vegetables. Have plastic bags or containers ready to stuff so you can grab and go!
2. Have your foods available to the eye. When you open your fridge or pantry, place your snack healthy foods in the front so that your eye finds them quickly.
3. Don’t make it complicated. Stick with what you like, what you enjoy and what works in your busy life.
So what do you do if you are out for the day, planning to workout but have no snacks? A few simple solutions:
1. Check out your local gym to see what vending snack options they might have. Most gyms have snack bars or vending machines that offer easy, post workout friendly options.
2. Swing by your local market or convenience store for a quick bit. Search foe easy options: protein bars, granola bars, raw fruit bars.
3. Add to your work desk storage: create a small area where you can keep easy grab and go snacks when in a pinch.