Fueling up after a long workout is overlooked by many gym-goers, however, it may be just as important as any pre-workout snack too. That’s because a good recovery starts with good recovery nutrition. After a tough endurance workout, the first thing that is on your mind is probably a rewarding and yummy snack. However, what you eat after your workout is an important cornerstone to recover properly and replenish what your body lost while exercising.
Eating Carbs Vs. Protein Post Workout
So what should you eat after a long workout? The two key components to any good post-workout meal are carbs and protein. Some people are staunch believers that one is better than the other when it comes to helping your body recover. However, the leading research says that a one-two-punch of eating both carbs and protein after endurance training is the best way to go.
Getting enough protein post-workout is an essential part of a post-workout snack especially if muscle growth and maintenance are a goal. Following a tough training session, the body needs help from its friend protein to repair body tissue and start the process of building stronger, more resilient muscles. Recent studies suggest taking in around 20 grams of high-quality protein within 30 minutes after exercise gives the body the nutrients it needs to start recovery and prevent muscle loss. And as the saying goes, friends don’t let friends lose muscle.
The same time crunch goes for eating carbs too. This is because muscle glycogen is synthesized more rapidly if you take in carbs immediately after a workout rather than several hours later. So, if you engage in a hard cardio session, experts recommend eating within an hour after finishing the workout so that your body can restore muscle glycogen and replenish its energy.
In fact, delaying the consumption of post-workout carbs for just two hours has been shown to slow the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis by as much as 50 percent. Your body probably used up its fat and sugar during the workout, so you’ll need to eat in order to recover properly. According to research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, insulin, which your body releases when you eat carbs, helps protein build muscle more effectively.
By eating a combo of both protein and carbs you are ensuring that your body is being replenished with the nutrients that you lost while sweating it out. Below are some of the best post-workout meals that have a good mix of carbs and protein to help enhance your recovery and fuel your next gym session.
Best Foods To Recover After A Long Workout
Greek Yogurt & Berries
Full of protein and potassium, greek yogurt is one of the top options for exercisers. The probiotics will regulate your digestive system and the protein will prevent your tired muscles from feeling achy tomorrow. Plus, blueberries are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which can improve our defense systems in the body. Some research shows cardiovascular benefits and they can reduce muscle damage as well.
The main electrolytes we lose through endurance exercise are sodium and potassium. Bananas are a great natural source of potassium and can be great for reducing cramping. Also, bananas are high in carbohydrates that our muscles can take up rapidly, after being depleted due to a long workout or run.
Packed with seven grams of protein, an egg is a compact, recovery hero. It delivers amino acids, which are the body’s versatile building blocks that aid in muscle repair and may decrease muscle soreness. Consuming protein immediately after your workout is important, but Smith recommends endurance athletes also eat a protein-rich snack before bed to help promote muscle recovery and repair overnight.
Keeping a bowl of hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator is an easy way to make this happen. Grab one when you get back from a ride or before hitting the hay. Alternatively, you can slice one over a salad of spinach and kale or mash a hard-boiled egg on a slice of whole-grain toast for that balanced carb-protein mix. If you prefer your eggs hot off the griddle, scramble with a mixture of spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms or whatever vegetables you have on hand. Serve with quinoa or brown rice.
Sweet Potatoes have complex carbs to help replenish those glycogen stores. They also have ample beta carotene, an antioxidant and a precursor for Vitamin A. They also have Vitamin C, iron and potassium.
To roast them in wedges, follow the next couple of steps. Simply slice potatoes lengthwise to create wedges. Lay the wedges flat on a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, cumin, and chili powder to taste. Roast until crisp. If you prefer to keep it simple, wrap a potato in foil and bake. These are easily prepped ahead of time to make your snack quick and easy.
When you’re starving after an intense stint at the gym, you want something easy. Don’t just reach for a bag of chips or a sweet dessert; stick to your favorite kid-friendly meal. Grab a slice of whole wheat bread, skip the sugary jelly, and go straight for the PB. Peanut butter will give your body the dose of protein it’s seeking, and its fiber content will make you feel nice and full. If you’re craving a bit of sweetness, drizzle the slice in honey.
They’re not just trendy – avocados are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Plus, avocados also contain a solid dose of good-for-you fat, potassium, and vitamin C, which helps with immune functions.
Slice an avocado in half and scoop the soft fruit from the peel. Use a fork to gently smash it onto a toasted, whole-grain bread for the complex carbohydrates. Top with leafy greens like arugula for added vitamins and antioxidant goodness.
High in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon offers a healthy (and delicious) way to jumpstart your muscle recovery. While the protein works to repair damage to the muscle fibers, the Omega-3’s help prevents damage from oxidative stress and ward off illness. Salmon is also packed with the amino acid taurine, which provides additional antioxidant benefits.
Stack sliced, smoked salmon with a thin layer of cream cheese on toasted whole-grain bread. Top with spinach or arugula leaves. You can also add grilled salmon to your go-to salad for a nutrient- and protein-rich meal.