What you eat after a workout is almost as important as the workout itself. There are a lot of contradictory ideas out there about what you should eat post-workout too – “eat ALL the protein! No protein at all! Carbs are the enemy! No wait, they're you're friend! FAT IS BAD! Actually, put a tbsp. of butter in your coffee (yes, we're serious, it's a thing. Ew...)”. So, what should you believe? What are you supposed to eat after that will help boost weight-loss and keep your body healthy? We're here to let you know.
First, let's talk about what happens to your body when you work out. Exercising depletes your glycogen (energy, aka carbs that live in your muscles) stores. Strenuous physical activity (especially resistance training) also creates tiny tears in your muscles and damages muscles proteins (it sounds bad but it's good! Muscles become stronger during the healing/repairing process). Now that you're tired and your body is working hard to fix itself up, how is it going to get that done? Nutrients, of course! Without the correct nutrients, your body will have a much harder time trying to recover post-workout. Essentially, you a) have to eat and b) have to eat right for your body to heal and get stronger.
Okay, great. What exactly are you supposed to eat then? You need all of the big three: protein, carbs, and fat; what matters is how much of each you're eating after.
1. Protein: Protein is what actually helps your muscles repair and build. Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body's ability to recover after exercise. Some great proteins to consume post-workout include chicken, greek yogurt, eggs, salmon, cottage cheese, or protein shakes (like our Vanilla Protein Smoothie with 20g of protein!)
2. Carbohydrates: Carbs replenish your glycogen stores but it's important to remember that the rate at which they're used depends upon your activity. For example, if you're doing an endurance sport such as swimming or running, you'll use more energy than you would if you were bodybuilding. Studies show you can restore your glycogen levels to normal by eating 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight right after working out. It's also best to eat carbs in conjunction with proteins – a good rule of thumb is a 3:1 (carbs to protein) ratio. So, if you had 40g of protein, you would consume 120g of carbs. Some good post-workout carbs include sweet potatoes, chocolate milk, quinoa, fruit, pasta, and dark, leafy green veggies. (FYI, we have some amazing mashed sweet potatoes that are quick'n'easy to heat up after a workout!)
3. Fat: Fat used to be demonized because people thought that eating fat after a workout slowed down digestion and inhibited the absorption of nutrients. It might slow down the absorption of your meal but it won't cancel out any benefits. Plus, healthy fats in moderation offer some great benefits. Good fats to include after workouts include nuts, avocado, nut butter, and trail mixes (like our Paleo TCM Granola which includes cashews, hazelnuts, & almonds).
Also important is WHEN you eat after a workout. Your body's ability to repair itself and restore energy is enhanced right after a workout but diminishes over time. Conventional wisdom says you should eat 30-45 minutes after working out. Something else to remember? Rehydration! You lose water while you're sweating it out, so be sure to drink plenty of water or Gatorade while you're cooling down.
Finally, some sample meals you can have after a workout include:
· Baked chicken & brown rice
· Baked Tilapia with Lemon Sauce
· Avocado toast w/eggs
· Seared Ahi Tuna
· Whole wheat wraps
· Open Faced Turkey Burgers
· Tuna Salad or Sandwich on whole grain bread
· Shrimp dishes such as Shrimp Scampi or Shrimp and Grits
· Cottage Cheese w/ berries
Just to name a few =)