If you put a lot of effort into your workout routine and performance is an important goal to you, then you’ll want to put thought into what you’re eating after your workout. Yes, what you eat to fuel your workout is important, but thinking about what you’re putting in your body to recover and replenish is an important part of any workout regime as well.
Workouts expend glycogen from your body and use muscle proteins. After working out, your body needs to rebuild these stores and repair damage, which is why post-workout nutrition is so important. Eating about 45 minutes after exercise will help your body recover more quickly. Thinking about food as fuel for your body, both before and after your workout, will help you make the right decisions when selecting your post-workout meal.
Morning Workouts and Breakfast
If you're an early bird with a morning workout routine, the meal you eat after your workout brings new meaning to breakfast being the most important meal of the day. As a rule, focusing on lean protein and carbs is important in that post-workout meal. In fact, eating a high protein breakfast will help replenish you and give you the fuel you need to get through the rest of the day.
Try a meal that involves egg whites for a great protein source. Include carbs, like toast or oatmeal to replenish. In addition, oatmeal and whole wheats have added benefits like being a great source of minerals and fiber. Complex carbs are high in fiber, which means they digest more slowly and make you feel full longer. This is an added benefit when you’re eating early, especially if you’ve experienced that post-workout hunger that can feel all-consuming.
Eating After a Lunchtime Workout
If you’re one to hit the gym on your lunch break, you know the challenge of finding the time to eat that much needed meal after your workout. It can be hard to find foods that offer the nutrients you need when you’re rushing from the gym back to your desk. Although high quality foods made from simple ingredients should always be your first choice, sometimes reaching for a protein bar that has the right macronutrient breakdown will have to be your go-to. Make sure you’re choosing a bar that is high in protein, high in carbs and low in fat. It should consist of at least 20-30 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs.
Another idea is to prep some quick and easy lunches on the weekend, so you can grab one and eat quickly after your workout. Think about sandwiches with lean lunch meat and high quality whole wheat bread. Even a bowl of oatmeal with added protein can be filling in these situations. Prepping a batch of quinoa and lean chicken is another healthy and easy go-to. Whether you choose a bar or bowl, make sure that you are eating enough to keep hunger away. You don’t want to succumb to hunger and junk food cravings midday.
Meals After an Evening Workout
If you hit the gym after work, think about fueling your body with carbs immediately after the gym, especially if dinner is still a couple of hours off. Try a banana or a high protein and low fat yogurt. Replenishing carbs and minerals with coconut water can also be beneficial. If you’re headed straight to dinner, try and make choices that focus on carbs and lean protein, like grilled chicken or fish and rice or potatoes.
Be mindful if having an evening cocktail as well. Thinking you’ll skip the post-workout meal and have a cocktail instead is also a bad idea. Alcohol will not fill your depleted glycogen stores. It also dehydrates you further, at a time when your body is already depleted from sweating. Alcohol also affects your sleep, making it so you don’t spend enough time in restorative sleep, which your body needs to make it so you’re ready to go again the next day.