You've just finished a hard workout—good job!
Now what are you popping in your mouth?
If you're like a lot of folks, you probably don't give it a lot of thought. But there are important reasons why you should.
Here are six things you really should eat after your workout:
One. The prevalent wisdom on the subject is that if you want to build muscle, follow your workout with roughly 30 grams of protein—that's about 3.5 ounces of meat, poultry or fish— and roughly the same amount of carbohydrates. If you want to stay in shape or lose a few pounds, they say, just eat within the first hour of working out.
The problem with that is that whatever your personal weight loss goals, every workout you do challenges your body by breaking down muscle tissue, which the body then rebuilds. You want to train your muscles: in your hips, in your core, everywhere that you've got them! That's how you get up the stairs with ease, lift stuff, and even just get out of your chair.
Feed those muscles protein right after working out. Perhaps it's not all that surprising, but if you haven't found protein in a powdered form that you like, it's no longer the purview of serious athletes, and it's worth exploring your options. The best don't have any icky taste, and blend right up in a smoothie so well you won't know it's there. Get to know your protein powders—they're making some with all-veggie protein sources now.
Two. You need carbs for replenishing your body's fuel stores, which are burned during your workout. But no, we don't mean chocolate cake—not all carbs are created equal. A whole wheat wrap with green leaves are rich in those good carbs. Wrap them up with some lean turkey for protein and you'll recover more quickly.
Three. Almonds. They're rich in both protein and good fat. If you're rushing from the gym, snack on a small handful with a piece of fruit—anything that's rich in nutrients will do—we like oranges as they will rehydrate you quickly.
Four. Fish oil. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory and helps lessen any soreness you experience. Some studies suggest that consuming good fats post-workout can even help with burning body fat. There are many brands of fish oil capsules on the market—go for the most reputable one you can afford (the good ones screen for mercury and other damaging metals). Not into capsules? Go for the real deal: Salmon, celery and a little bit of homemade mayo with olive oil is a great choice—even at 6 am. Why not? It feeds your brain, too.
Five. Finally, coffee! The caffeine in coffee has been shown to increase the body's uptake of sugar (those naturally occurring ones) in good carbs. The body's glycogen stores, burned up during a hard workout, are replenished that much faster with the addition of caffeine. Be careful, though: That's black coffee, not dressed up with dairy and added sugars. Freeze a little extra brew so you have some coffee cubes on hand to pop one in your smoothies!
And as shown above, take it to go in your Bentology bento jar!
Any good coach or trainer will tell you that the trick to success is about 30% working out and 70% what you feed your body. Perhaps even more important than most of your meals, a little bit of thought and planning into your post workout nutrition goes a very long way.
You've worked hard. Now fuel your body so it can recover—and make staying on track with your weight loss goals even more efficient!