If you just had a great workout, the last thing you want to do is sabotage your results by eating a bunch of junk as soon as you get home from the gym. But here’s the rub: you shouldn’t avoid eating altogether, either.
The fact is, you actually need to eat to stock up on calories after a workout—but they have to be the right calories. Read on to find out what to eat, when to eat it, and why it’s important for your body, whether your goal is weight loss or muscle building. Here are a few rules to follow when creating your post-workout meal plan.
Your muscles are primed to receive fuel to start the muscle-tissue repair process in the 15 to 45 minutes immediately following a workout. If you don’t replenish your body with healthy calories after a workout, your body will start to break down muscle tissue and you’ll actually start to lose muscle.
Eat Your Carbs
Carbohydrates are the primary and most important source of energy for the body. After your body burns off all that energy during a workout, it needs to be replaced through eating carbs. Just don’t go eating an entire loaf of bread—I’ll explain some healthier options below.
Very simply, you need water to live. When you sweat, you lose water, so make sure to replace all the water you lost by drinking at least two cups of water after your workout.
Replace Lost Electrolytes
Did you know you also lose electrolytes when you sweat? Electrolytes are small conductors that transmit electrical impulses throughout your body. These can be easily replaced by eating some fruit immediately after your workout.
So, What Should You Eat?
Okay, now that you’ve got the rules down pat, let’s talk about what you should actually put in your body after a workout. What you’re going for are a mix of protein and carbs. Regarding the latter, whole-grain sources of carbohydrates are a better choice than processed ones.
Here are some post-workout meal ideas:
• Chocolate milk
• Fruit smoothie, with fruit, skim milk, Greek yogurt and natural peanut butter
• Egg white and spinach omelet
• Dried fruits and nuts
• Hummus on a whole-grain pita
• Whey protein shake with banana
• Grilled chicken and mixed veggies
• Tuna on whole-wheat bread
Some of these options are very simple, grab-and-go-type snacks, while others take more prep time. Make sure to plan ahead and prepare the more complicated dishes ahead of time so you can eat them in the 15-to-45-minute window.
Your biggest takeaway here? When in doubt, eat something. Your body will certainly thank you for it.
>> What’s your go-to post-workout meal or snack? Share in the comments!
Brian Maher is a personal trainer in Center City Philadelphia who specializes in weight loss and nutritional counseling. He is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a company offering convenient in-home personal training packages to busy individuals looking to improve their fitness levels. To learn more about Brian and his services, visit www.phillypersonaltraining.com. Read all of Brian’s posts for Be Well Philly here.