Go ahead – pat yourself on the back. You KILLED it at your workout today. With the help of your trainer, you did more reps and harder cardio than you ever thought would be possible, and you feel great. Well, you actually feel exhausted and famished. In fact, all you can think about as you walk your wobbly legs out to your car is whether or not your arms are too tired to heft a cheeseburger to your mouth. You can’t wait to eat, and you deserve a treat after your efforts, right?
The truth is, whether or not you deserve a cheat-snack doesn’t matter as much when you consider the impact that your food choices can have on your post-workout body. Working out doesn’t give you super power-ability to magically be able to eat whatever you want without consequence. In fact, there are a few definite no-no’s for this important time of recovery. So read on, hungry one, we’ve got what you need to know, and what NOT to eat.
- High-fat foods
Sure, we’re all about healthy fats to balance out your meals, amp up your HDL cholesterol, and help your brain function effectively. However, your post-workout body isn’t able to use fats to replenish and rebuild. Fats don’t do a great job of replenishing glycogen your muscles used. And as far as other high-fat options, such as French fries and that sloppy cheeseburger, the fats in those foods can actually put the brakes on your metabolism, which is not exactly what you want after working so hard to accelerate it.
- Raw veggies
As a snack at other times during the week, great. As a booster to increase your meal size, we love it. As your only snack after a workout, not great. The reason for this is because they just don’t have the necessary nutrition content for this crucial period of time. If you must chomp down on some veggies, be sure to dip ‘em in plenty of cottage cheese, a Greek yogurt concoction, or even some pureed canned beans.
- The sweet stuff
Sugar can dramatically slow down your metabolism, much like fat. Plus, if you rely on sweet beverages to rehydrate, you’re often making an ineffective choice. After a workout, your body needs water, plain and simple. We even tend to steer clients away from sugary sports drinks that are made to replace electrolytes unless exercising very intensely for extended periods of time.
- The salty stuff
When taxed, your body’s potassium levels can drop dramatically, as can ingesting salt. Your body loses potassium during exercise, and you don’t want to cause it to plunge even lower by eating a salty snack.
- Hot and spicy
As much as we hate to say it, your go-to Sriracha might be a little harsh on your nutrient-depleted body. You need items that are easier to digest than your famous 5-alarm chicken wings.
So what should you eat? After exercise, your muscles will get properly built up by a combination of lean protein and carbohydrates. If you’re really hungry, go ahead a make it a meal with a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, a whole-wheat tortilla with chicken, or whole grain crackers with tuna. Besides, if you snack heartily after you exercise, you’re much less likely to binge and cheat later on.
Knowing what and how to eat after exercise can help you maximize the hard work you put in with your trainer, and help you see faster results. With a little planning and knowledge, you can easily fuel your body properly after your workouts. Have questions? Your trainer has many more ideas for post-workout nutrition. You never know; maybe this conversation will distract you long enough to power through those last 2 reps of shoulder work next week.