When it comes to working out, not only do you need to consider what you put your body through during your exercise program, but also how you help it recover post workout. If you don’t feed your body enough calories, it’ll soon struggle to maintain the pace you set. Post workout meals are essential to keeping your body in fuel. There are thousands of food stuffs you can eat after working out, but many of them won’t give your body what it really needs. As well as ensuring you are well hydrated, this is a run-down of what to eat after a workout.
What to Do After a Workout
If there’s one piece of advice you need on what to do after a workout, it’s cool down. Always take time to cool down and stretch before you hit the shower or go for your post workout food. While you’re cooling down, remember to re-hydrate yourself with plenty of water. Many people will enjoy a protein shake after a late night workout, but it’s entirely up to you. Once done with your cool down, your water (or protein shake/smoothie), it’s time to prepare yourself an after workout meal. Although we’re covering the topic of the best foods to eat after a workout, you should also consider what to eat *before* a workout. Both are of equal importance to give you the energy and strength to get through it. They will also help your body recover afterwards. Let’s look at the best post workout meals.
Post Workout Carbs
Depending on your reason for working out (just to keep in shape, building muscle, etc.), there are various schools of thought on best post workout meals. It’s known that eating 1.1-1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight will help your body re-synthesize glycogen. Many people ask the question: how long should I wait to eat after a workout to lose weight? And the answer is the same as you would if you weren’t trying to! It’s thought that post workout carbs should be consumed within 30-60 minutes of finishing your program. What comprises these post workout carbs is entirely up to you. Many nutritionists recommend eating fruit after workout. Or you could try a combination of this list of foods to eat after workouts:
- Fruits (berries and bananas)
- Sweet and regular potatoes (baked or boiled)
- Leafy greens (raw or blanched)
- Whole Wheat pasta (can be added to lean meat and veggies as a meal)
- Brown rice (add veg and lean meat)
- Oats (mix up with greek yogurt and fruit in a parfait)
Also read – 3 Day Military Diet – Does it Really Work?
Post Workout Protein
Again, how much post workout protein you consume can depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Many people want to know how much protein to eat after a workout. It’s widely recommended that you consume around 0.14-0.23 grams per pound of body weight. This will help your body recover and should be included as part of your post workout meal. Again, post workout protein should be consumed along with your post workout carbs. Aim to eat your meal within around 60 minutes to completing your program. Some of the best foods to eat after a workout are:
- Eggs (poached or boiled)
- Greek Yogurt (use with berries and bananas as part of a filling snack)
- Chocolate Milk (or whizz up your own smoothie with fruits)
- Whey Protein (often used by bodybuilders)
- Canned Tuna (can be mixed with a little mayo and eaten on whole wheat bread)
- Cooked Chicken (eaten plain or in a sandwich)
Not Eating After a Workout
To be honest, this shouldn’t really be an option. Even if you’re wondering what to eat after a workout to lose weight and build muscle, NOT eating should never enter the equation. Losing weight with exercise is great, but you won’t be able to keep up with your workouts if you have no post workout meal to help your body recover. Because you sweat during your workout, your body will lose water and electrolytes. This means you need to also drink after your workout to replace these so that you do not become dehydrated. Because you do not eat during a workout, your body will use existing food stores. Once this has been used, it will turn to its fat stores to fuel the workout. Not eating after a workout will stop you from achieving your goals and leave you feeling washed out, tired and possibly dizzy with fatigue. Your body won’t thank you for it, and you need a post workout snack to help you keep on track.
What not to do after exercising?
There are many things that won’t help you recover post workout. The top mistakes that people make are things like skipping out on their cool down. Cooling down and stretching after a workout helps to reduce your heart rate and slowly bring your body back down to earth. It also helps to get you ready for the next workout and can reduce the likelihood of injury. Another common mistake is falling for advertising for ‘recovery’ drinks, such as Gatorade of Lucozade. Sure, they taste great, but they contain an enormous amount of sugar, which you should avoid. Your body needs to be re-hydrated, but stick with the water, eat a good post workout snack, and you’ll get everything you need. On the subject of eating, for many, working out signals their right to a treat. You’ve burned SO many calories, so why can’t you eat that bag of chips? Your body needs nutrition, not junk. Stay away from Dunkin’ on the way home and get yourself a healthy post workout snack that isn’t deep fried and covered in sprinkles. Sorry.
Finally, one of the other common mistakes that people do post workout is assume they can now lie on the sofa for the rest of the day. Not moving for hours post workout may well result in your muscles tightening up. By all means, have a rest, but don’t stay on your butt for the day. Get up and move around a little to keep your body from seizing up.
Is it OK to sleep after workout?
Sure, but you might have to be mindful of the time of day or night you work out. Working out in the morning gives you the rest of the day to recover, move around, and keep your body in motion. Working out after a day at the office is pretty much the same. You can work out, go home, eat your post workout meal, and then chill out. However, if you work out pretty late at night, there’s every chance you might not be able to sleep afterwards. If your workout is intense and involves running, cycling or any continual cardio, you want to leave at least two hours before sleep to let your body calm down. However, If your workout is gentle, such as yoga or tai chi, this might actually help promote sleep. It really depends on your lifestyle and what kind of workout you enjoy.
Remember not just to fall into bed post workout, though. You should probably have a post workout snack and relax a little. You don’t want to be horrible and sweaty at night and then wake up in the morning starving and not being able to move because you missed your cool down and post workout meal.
Is it OK to shower after exercise?
Yes! In fact, we would actively encourage it. Chances are, after your workout, you probably don’t smell that fresh. A shower will sort that right out. Also, you don’t really want to have all the sweat clogging up your pores for the rest of the day, do you? Showering after working out not only helps you relax and feel fresh, it also reduced the risk of the bacteria on your sweaty skin causing rashes and irritation. In terms of when you shower after exercise, it’s not always considered good practice to hit the stall straight away. If you’re at home, why not have your recovery food first? If you wait around 20 minutes, you’ll have stopped sweating. Your heart rate will be slower, and you won’t come out of the shower as sweaty as when you went in.
What should you eat before and after a workout?
So, we’ve given you an idea of a range of healthy post workout snacks. But, what should you eat before you start? Ideally, you need to eat something healthy and nutritious to give you the energy to fuel your exercise program. What you eat before is every bit as important as your recovery food. The following are considered to be healthy ways to properly fuel your body before you hit the gym, head out on a run, or whatever your preferred workout is:
- Fruit smoothies (with milk, berries, and banana, or whatever your preference)
- Oats (overnight oats can be handy, or instant is also good)
- Bananas (either as they are, in a smoothie, or as a fruit parfait with greek yogurt)
- Lean chicken with rice (microwave whole grain rice is easy to get hold of, and you can pick up cooked chicken if you’re short of time for meal prep)
- Whole Grain Bread with a filling of lean meat (easy to assemble and keep fresh)
Many of these items double as post workout meals, too. This means you don’t have to keep two separate lists for the grocery store of what you need for pre and post workout meals. This is good for your health and good for your wallet! Just stick to healthy, whole foods and leave out the processed meals. Many of the foods listed can be packed in your bag and transported to the gym or the office. This makes them easy to grab during your busy day. Throwing a sandwich or banana in your gym bag on the way to work in the morning means you always have that post workout snack on hand, ready to go.
There are many schools of thought on the best workout meals, but it’s pretty clear what you should and shouldn’t include. Don’t grab something just because it’s convenient, like a donut or a quick cheeseburger from the drive-thru. Although these might solve your hunger problem, they won’t help your body recover post workout. You need to opt for something healthy and nutritious both pre AND post workout to give your body what it needs. Stick with water, fruit smoothies, protein shakes after a workout to re-hydrate your body and replace lost water and electrolytes.
For a post workout snack, whole grains, lean meats, fruits (berries or bananas), leafy greens, greek yogurt, oats, and whole wheat breads are all easy to get hold of and easy to prepare. You want to ensure your body has enough fuel to get you through your workout, as well as the right foods to help it recover afterwards. There are no set rules on what you can do, so mess around and find a combination or post workout protein and post workout carbs that feels right for you! Remember to include plenty of water!