Why is Eating Post Workout Important?
When you work out, the glycogen stores of muscles are used up for fuel which leads to muscles running out of glycogen. Moreover, some proteins that are present in your muscles get broken down. Post the workout, your body tries to recollect its glycogen caches and repair those muscle proteins. Eating after you are done with your exercise can accelerate this process. It is especially important to eat carbs and protein after your workout. The nutrients from these foods help in multiple ways:
- Decreases breakdown of muscle protein
- Increases muscle protein synthesis (growth)
- Restores glycogen stores
- Enhances muscle recovery
Broadly, you should include carbs, proteins, and fats in your meal. Let’s see how each of these food groups affect the body.
Carbohydrates Replenish Glycogen Stores
The rate at which your glycogen stores are used up depends on the activity. As mentioned above, sports tap more glycogen than resistance training. This is why you need to consume more carbs if you do any kind of sports, say running or swimming, than a bodybuilder. Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen resynthesis. Furthermore, insulin secretion, which facilitates glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time.
Foods rich in carbohydrates are a good way to deal with the loss of immunity that can take place after the workout. Consuming carbohydrates as part of a post-workout snack also gives a nudge to glycogen storage.
Protein Rebuild Muscles
Both resistance training and cardio lead to some amount of muscle wear and tear. Resistance training causes more muscle tears. So, on the days when you lift weights or do other forms of resistance training, make sure you have about 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of your body weight (or 0.25 to 0.3 g/kg body weight) or 15 to 25 g protein across the typical range of athlete body sizes, although the guidelines may need to be fine-tuned for athletes at extreme ends of the weight spectrum.
Small Amount of Good Fat is Good
Most people do not prefer eating fats after a workout because it retards digestion and impedes the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce the inherent benefits it has when incorporating in the overall diet. Although it is always advised to limit the amount of fat you consume after exercise, including fat in your post-workout meal will not impact the rate of recovery.
20 Best Foods to Eat Post Workout
Like rice, eggs have quite a mixed reputation. Many people favor eating only the white because they do not like the texture of the yolk or it smells odd. But many people avoid having the yolk as they consider it to be unhealthy. However, that is not true. Whole eggs are excellent sources of water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and most importantly, essential amino acids and proteins. They are excellent for your post-workout meal as they are loaded with proteins and other nutrients that help protect you from various diseases. Having 1-2 whole eggs as part of a post-workout meal is ideal.
2. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a protein-packed dairy product that is enjoyed in wraps, salads, pizzas, and sandwiches. It is a great source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients that help increase satiety levels. Some commercially prepared cottage cheese is also fortified with vitamin D, an essential nutrient for overall well-being.
Muscle inflammation that is most probable to happen after a workout can be reduced by consuming salmon as it has omega-3 fatty acids. They lower the amount of prostaglandin, a compound that is naturally produced in the body to trigger inflammation. Most importantly, salmon has lean protein which is necessary for cell generation and facilitates muscle repair.
Chicken is another amazing source of protein that you can consume after working out. Three and a half ounces of skinless chicken breast contains up to 31 grams of protein. Since protein is hard to digest, it takes longer to digest and absorb the nutrients from chicken. As a result, your satiety levels go up.
5. Protein Bars
Protein bars are convenient, tasty and can provide quick nutrients for recovery after a workout. There are advantages to occasionally reaching for a bar to help you restore your energy. But don’t forget to check the label for its nutrition profile.
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt and helps enhance satiety levels. It is a great snack option, and having it post your workout is a great way to keep your hunger pangs in control for an hour or so.
Tofu is a good source of vegan and vegetarian protein. Three ounces of tofu contains about 8 grams of protein. You can consume tofu wrap, tofu salad or sandwich or add it to your bowl of quinoa. Avoid it if you are allergic to soy.
Mushrooms are low in calories and half a cup of mushrooms contains about 1.1 grams of protein.
9. Protein Powder
If you are always on the go and do not have time to fix your post-workout protein-loaded meal, protein powder may be a great option for you. There are several types of protein powders available on the market that you can add to milk, yogurt, and water to make a healthy and nutritious protein shake to drink after your workout session.
Tuna is a good source of protein and healthy fats. One ounce of canned tuna contains about 7.1 g of protein and 78.7 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains a selenium-containing compound, selenoneine. It helps protect the hemoglobin and myoglobin from oxidation and also helps decrease mercury toxicity.
Oats are popular among those who are willing to lose weight. The beneficial complex carbs present in oats also make them a great post-workout choice. Loaded with vitamin E, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, oats help increase satiety, lower bad cholesterol, and also fight cancer.
12. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potato is low in calories, great for replenishing the glycogen stores, and keeps you satiated for a long duration. This instant energy source also helps in weight loss, has cancer-fighting potential, and flushes out toxins from the body.
13. Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and veggies like pears, plums, apples, bananas, peaches, watermelon, muskmelon, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and peas are great options to include in your post-workout meal. And that’s because they help increase your energy levels and fight the toxic, free oxygen radicals. They also can help combat heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. The WHO recommends consuming 4-5 types of fruits and veggies per day.
14. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens like radish greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, and arugula are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and E, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other phytonutrients. These will not only help you replenish the glycogen stores but also protect you from a host of diseases, help in weight loss, and help enhance your immunity.
And you thought rice was not good for you! Well, not when you have it within two hours post working out and also have a cup of vegetables and a source of protein with it. True, white rice has a higher GI than brown, red, or black rice. Brown rice has more dietary fiber than white rice. But both are helpful if you can control the portion size (recommended ½ cup per serving). Also, rice will give you that quick hike of energy by restoring your muscles and cells with glycogen and glucose respectively.
Quinoa is a protein-packed carbohydrate that has several healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. It helps prevent weight gain, improves digestion, and fills you up instantly.
[Read: Quinoa: Nutrition, Health Benefits & Ways to Eat]
Avocados are high-calorie fruits. But they are also packed with healthy fats, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, K, C, E, and B6. Scientists also believe that having avocado might help manage weight problems, decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, and lead to healthy aging.
Nuts are small powerhouses of health boosters. They are a good source of protein, dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Ghee or clarified butter is a healthy fat that you can add to your smoothies and coffee. It has antioxidant properties that help remove toxins and also help curb your hunger pangs.
20. Nut & Seed Butters
Nut and seed butter are also good healthy fat and protein sources.
Post-Workout Meal Ideas
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
- Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
- Salmon with sweet potato.
- Banana and nuts.
- Avocado and spinach smoothie.
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Tuna and crackers.
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana, and almonds.
- Cottage cheese and fruits.
- Mushroom soup.
- Baby carrot and hummus.
- Vegetable Quinoa.
- Rice, veggies, and fish/chicken/mushroom/tofu.
- Rice crackers and peanut butter.
- Whole grain toast and almond butter.
- Cereal and skim milk.
- Greek yogurt, berries, and granola.
- Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans.
- Boiled eggs.
- Boiled sweet potato and kale salad with cottage cheese.
- Protein shakes.
Importance of Post Workout Meal Timing
If you do not consume your post-workout meal within 45 mins-2 hours after working out, you can face the following consequences:
- Your metabolism may slow down.
- Your muscles may not recover completely.
- The carb processing of your body increases post workout. If you wait too long, your body may not be able to process the carbs. And you will gain flab.
- You may feel tired and lethargic throughout the day.
- Your sore muscles will not be recovered fast.
Drink Enough Water
Dehydration can stall your progress. Exercising will amount to nothing if you do not stay hydrated while at it. This is because hydration ensures that the body gets the most benefit from exercise. Therefore, drink lots of water not only after but before and during the workout as well. The body loses water and electrolytes while sweating, so drinking water during and after a workout strengthens performance and recovery.
Take Home Message
Lastly, make it a point to fix a quick after workout meal. It will hasten the muscle recovery and also restore energy lost during the course of the workout. Also, It is extremely important to keep in mind the timing, carbs to protein ratio and portion control. If you can do this, you are all set to amaze everyone with your improved stamina, muscle power, and strength. Get going and give it your best. Cheers!